When it comes to the rights of fathers toward their children, the American court system sadly lags behind the shift that has taken place within our society. Fathers have become far more involved in the lives of their children in recent decades, and many shoulder as much or more of the responsibilities of childrearing than their wives. However, Pennsylvania fathers still face considerable challenges within the legal system in child custody cases. The recent court victory of one father reminds all others of the need to protect one's legal interests in relation to their children.
The case involves a drill sergeant in the United States Army. He and his wife welcomed their first child in March 2011. The father was transferred out-of-state just weeks before the birth. The couple was experiencing troubles in their relationship, and once the father was gone, the mother placed their child up for adoption. She worked with the Adoption Center of Choice, and allegedly told the agency that her husband had abandoned the family and had no interest in his child.
The father did not learn the truth about his child's whereabouts until June 2011. At that time he contacted the adoption agency and demanded that his daughter be returned to him. They ignored his wishes, and went forward with the adoption that was already underway. The father filed a child custody action against the adoptive parents, and prevailed in court. The adoptive parents must return the now 22-month-old child to her father by mid-January.
While the decision is certainly difficult for the couple who adopted and has been raising this little girl, it is also a cautionary tale for all fathers. In today's ethical climate, there are adoption agencies that are far more focused on making a profit than on protecting the parental rights of biological parents, especially fathers. While this is an unusual child custody case in that it went to court, many fathers are duped out of their parental rights by such agencies every year, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Taking quick and aggressive legal action, as exemplified in this case, is the best path to being reunited with one's child.
Source: sltrib.com, "Utah judge upholds decision to give father custody of his child," Brooke Adams, Jan. 4, 2013