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Delivery room debate: fathers banned from seeing birth?

The discussion of fathers’ rights often centers around custody issues and paternity disputes. Parents who are unmarried may deal with complicated legal issues as they try to figure out parenting rights and schedules. But sometimes, the disputes begin even before the child is born.

For parents in Arizona, the first moment seeing their newborn is one that will never be forgotten. But one case on the East Coast could spark an interesting debate: do fathers’ have a legal right to be in the delivery room when their child is born? The answer might surprise you.

An unmarried father seeking parental rights would first need to establish paternity. But for one New Jersey man, being the father of the child does not mean he can be in the delivery room when the child is born. The state’s Superior Court ruled “in favor of a mom’s right to privacy in the delivery room.” So what did this mean?

This meant that, even though a father has been established as the child’s father, he did not need to be notified when the mother went into labor. Keep in mind this applies in a situation where the parents are not married to one another. Even if he happened to find that out, the mother could prevent him from being in the delivery room if she didn’t want him there.

There are likely two camps in this scenario. The first group would agree with the New Jersey court opinion, noting that the mother shouldn’t have to let the father know. And if it makes her uncomfortable or stressed for him to be in the delivery room, she should be able to make him leave. The second group would disagree with the court, saying that a father should be able to witness the birth of his child; any burden the mother experiences would be minimal.

As in any legal situation, there are always exceptional circumstances. But this court decision raises an interesting question for fathers across the nation. And while the laws in Arizona around fathers’ rights may differ from other states’ laws, there might come a time when a father might have to fight for his right to see the birth of his child.

Source: ABC News, “N.J. Judge Allows Mothers to Ban Dads From Delivery Room,” March 13, 2014.

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