April 21, 2014 | Share
The New Jersey case that allows moms to kick dads out of the delivery room: What does this decision mean for fathers?
In 2012, Steven Plotnick and Rebecca DeLuccia started dating. When Rebecca found out she was pregnant in February of 2013, Steven proposed and Rebecca accepted. They remained engaged until September 2013, when unfortunately they broke off the relationship. Steven still wanted to be involved with their child, and Rebecca agreed with Steven's wishes--except for his desire to be present at the birth. Unable to resolve the issue of his presence in the delivery room, Steven resorted to the New Jersey court system. A hearing was held, via phone conference, while Rebecca was in labor, before New Jersey Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed on November 19, 2013. He ruled that Rebecca could keep Steven out of the delivery room. Steven was able to see his baby daughter immediately after she was born, and does not plan to appeal the decision.
Collin County Family Law Attorneys note that Judge Mohammed based his decision on an analysis of the comparative rights of the mother and the father, finding that the mother's right to privacy outweighed the father's desire to see the birth of his child. The Judge noted that the father only had a desire, not an established legal right to be in the delivery room. The mother not only has a right to privacy with respect to undergoing medical procedures and any information that is ancillary to that procedure, but she also has a privacy right with respect to her own body. Judge Mohammed held that forcing a mother to allow a father in the delivery room would "invade her sphere of privacy." Collin County Family Law Attorneys point out that in predicating his decision on a woman's right to privacy, Judge Mohammed followed two landmark United States Supreme Court cases which based their rulings on a woman's right to privacy: Roe v. Wade in 1973, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. The former established the legality of abortion, and the latter allows a woman to have an abortion without notifying even her spouse.
Although the ruling was based on rights, the Judge did note that in this case, where the mother and father were estranged, that allowing the father in the delivery room would add stress in an already stressful situation, and that could result in harm to the mother and the baby. Again, the mother's and the baby's interests were greater than the father's albeit admirable desire to be present at the birth of his child.
But how far will this decision be taken? Because no appeal is planned, the parameters of the ruling will not be any further delineated. Will the decision be limited to estranged couples, or will it apply to all unmarried couples? If so, would that be discriminatory? Does simply being the legal father--a spouse--confer a legal right to be present at your child's birth? Or, will Plotnick v. DeLuccia be interpreted to apply to married couples as well, using the privacy argument in Planned Parenthood v. Casey?
These questions will most likely need to be resolved by the courts through more litigation. Parenting agreements and pre and post-nuptial agreements could also be used to address delivery room issues such as people who will be invited and whether cameras will be welcome. Contact Collin County Family Law Attorneys for more information today.
Categories: Family Law & Divorce