The Rights of a Non-Surrendering Father

This is such a complicated case. It really took reading through the lengthy legal opinions regarding this case (Kruithoff v. Catholic Charities of W. Mich. – In re Doe) to try and make some sense out of the situation. I leave it to my readers if they have that much interest to wade through the complexities. Below I will include a couple of reasonable arguments made in descent.

What is involved is the Michigan Safe Delivery of Newborns Law (SDNL) which is intended to prevent the abandonment of unwanted infants. The mother gave birth under her maiden name. There is also an indication that she was taking Methadone during pregnancy, so that the infant was born addicted to that substance. She also made allegations of domestic violence against the father, while acknowledging that she was still legally married at the time of the infants birth. She did not provide the father’s name.

Known or unknown to her was that the father had filed a petition for divorce and request for the custody of his unborn child the day before the mother gave birth. That is a part of the complication in the determination of this case.

It was never determined whether the paternal custody of the child was in the best interests of the child or whether the accusations of domestic violence were warranted.

Upon voluntary surrender by the mother at the hospital where she gave birth, custody of the infant was given to Catholic Charities. It appears they did not knock themselves out to identity, locate or notify the father. The father is trying to regain custody of his now 3 yr old son. The story has been published by a Grand Rapids Michigan newspaper with the title – Biological father sues Catholic Charities over newborn’s adoption.

Even as difficult as it has been for the courts to sort this one out, it is difficult to know what the best interests of the child are at this point. Both the surrendering and the non-surrendering parents had their rights terminated prior to the finalization of adoption proceedings.

At the end of the legal record were these statements of dissent.

To presume that it would somehow be in Doe’s best interest-the standard under the SDNL-to rip him from the arms of the only family he has known and place him with a stranger, as if Doe was somehow a mere piece of property instead of a living person.

The Legislature therefore enacted a policy that prefers to err on the side of protecting the safety of the child and of the surrendering parent, even at the possible detriment to the nonsurrendering parent.