Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Facebook message is not legal notice of pregnancy

UCLA law prof. E Volokh writes:
When a man and a woman have a child out of wedlock, and the woman puts up the child for adoption, the man is entitled to an opportunity to object and to raise the child himself (unless he’s found to be an unfit parent). “[N]atural fathers … are denied due process when their parental rights are terminated despite them never being given a chance to pursue their opportunity interest because they were never given notice of the child’s existence.” But if the man knows about the pregnancy and the adoption plans and does not object to the adoption in a timely way, he waives his rights.
Then he gives an Oklahoma supreme court court where the father won paternity because the only notice was some Facebook message that he never got.

The vote was only 6-3, with the dissent saying:
The duty of the male who has sexual relations with a female is (1) to be aware that a pregnancy might occur and (2) to inform himself. He cannot complacently wait for the female to find him in the event of a pregnancy. In this case the Mother tried to inform the father. There was no evidence that he attempted to learn anything. After the legislature had made its intent known, the majority opinion still maintains that the responsibility of informing a father lies fully with the female.

The Father’s testimony reveals that during the times they were having intercourse, the Mother was seventeen years old and he was twenty to twenty-one years old. He testified that he knew where she lived, knew her full name and had her telephone number. When asked, “What steps did you take to determine that she wasn’t pregnant after you had intercourse the last time?” His answer was “None.” He was also asked, “[D]id you ever attempt to contact her and she denied contact with you?” He answered, “No.”
I had no idea that it was previously the duty of the man to keep tabs on the woman and inform himself of his pregnancy status. Was he supposed to stalk her, or what?

The law might have once said that the man has no rights unless he marries the girl. And now it says that she has the unilateral right to get an abortion whenever she pleases. But saying that he has to follow her on Facebook? I get maybe a dozen Facebook messages a day, and I rarely read any of them.

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