I know I’ve been worse than spotty here recently and that is at least in part because it is the very end of our semester. Things do tend to get hectic. (And to add to the degree of difficulty factor, I’ve been doing quite a bit of travelling.)
But even as I struggle through this busy time, I have to pass along some quick thoughts about this story. It’s the resolution of a case I wrote about all the way back when the academic year was beginning–and so as the year ends, it seems remarkable that the case, too, has drawn to a close.
You can and should read the earlier post for the details important at that time, but here’s the bottom line now. A man originally agreed to be a sperm donor for a lesbian couple. As a part of the deal he said he’d have nothing to do with the child. (It looks like in current reports the names aren’t being used, but it does seem to me that it must be the same case.)
He had second thoughts, in part because he thought that the biological mother, who was (or had been?) an old friend had reneged on the agreement. He brought suit seeking recognition as the father of the child (and I assume this means as a legal father) and the contact with the child that a legal parent would expect.
Last week a judge–not the same judge from the original story–issued an order declaring that the two women were the legal parents of the child and that the man was not a legal parent. With the exception discussed below, the man was barred from contacting the child in the future.
This may seem harsh, but it is really just a consequence of the ruling that the women are the child’s parents while the man not a parent. Parents can, in general, decide who a child gets to see and who a child does not see. Indeed, this is ability to control access to the child is a critical power parents wield. It is at the core of parental rights.
Further parents are not generally obliged to explain their reasoning unless and until someone establishes that the child is at some sort of risk of harm. In other words, they don’t have to justify their decisions. The decision-making authority entrusted to parents is broad–the state doesn’t get to look over your shoulder all the time and second-guess a parent’s choices.
Thus, if the women–parents of this child–didn’t want the child to see the man it is entirely within their rights to say so. Parents get to make the rules and if they do not want the child to see a person, that’s the way it goes. Of course, the rules aren’t generally reduced to court, but in this case the court might have issued the order simply because the parties were there in court.)
It’s not clear to me whether this ruling was part of a settlement between the parties, but the whole point of the article is that the case did settle. And, according to the report:
Under the deal, the northern Ontario man who launched the suit, and his parents, will be allowed a one-time public meeting with his offspring, now two years old, but they can’t reveal his relationship to the little boy or even touch him, the Post said.
I find myself vaguely troubled by the sad little scene that must result from this order. It’s hard to imagine that it will mean much of anything to the child–who is two. But it must at least partly satisfy some need of the man and his parents as it is surely occurring at their request. I presume that this was a concession the parents had to make in order to settle the case.
As the article notes, Canadian law governing cases like this is not clear. Unclear law only creates trouble, really. People are much more likely to keep going when they think they might have a chance to win. And in the end, I don’t think that is better for anyone.