When Does a Man Become a Dad? When the State Says So

Over the years, American culture and its view on what “family” means has changed drastically.  Same sex marriage (while not allowed everywhere) is not as shocking as it once was.  Single motherhood has become acceptable and many couples feel that marriage is becoming obsolete.  Despite these radically shifting social views, the laws in the U.S. governing what makes up a “family” are slow to keep up.  And the people impacted the most by these legal doctrines are sometimes the least aware of them.

Take Chukwudera Okoli, who married his wife, Blessing, in 1991.  Despite years of trying to conceive, the couple remained childless through the years – including when they separated in 2001.  However, in 2003, Blessing became pregnant with twins through the use of in vitro fertilization, using donor sperm and a donor egg. On March 6 2012, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed a decision by a judge from Probate and Family Court  requiring Okoli to pay child support to the twins.

Usually, there would be nothing unusual about a married parent being required to pay child support.  Massachusetts, like New York, has a legal presumption that a man is the legal father of any child to whom his wife gives birth to, in addition to a law aimed specifically at artificial insemination, which recognizes the husband as the legal father of children his wife has conceived through artificial insemination.  Though Okoli and his wife were separated, they were not divorced (i.e. they were still married) at the time of the birth of the twins and neither of the parents is genetically related to the children. … <Read More>

Returning Home For a Better Life or Parental Kidnapping?


Parental kidnapping has been an issue many people across the country and the world have had to face. Iraq veteran and New Jersey resident Michael Elias alleges that he has experienced it firsthand.  Elias, who returned home from Iraq three years ago, alleges that upon his return, his former wife told him she wanted a divorce. However, if only Elias could foresee what was to come—an international custody battle with his former wife, who is now living with their two children approximately 7,000 miles away in Japan.

Upon divorce, Elias and his former wife were granted joint custody by a Bergen County Court. In order to prevent either parent from taking the children out of the country, the Court directed that the children’s passports be surrendered. With the children’s passports surrendered and a court order of joint custody, Elias thought he had nothing to worry about. 

However, during a routine exchange of the children a few months later, Elias waited for his children to be dropped off for his parenting time. What he didn’t know what that he former wife and their two children were on a plane to Japan, violating the custody order. Since Elias’s former wife worked at the Japanese Embassy, she was able to get new passports for the children. How did she obtain new passports for the children legally and now that she is in Japan with the children, does it really even matter?

Japan is not a party to the Hague Convention on Parental Kidnapping, so what is Elias supposed to do?… <Read More>

What Is the Best Interest of Adopted Chinese Children?

The implementation of China’s One-Child Policy led to a rise in children being put up for adoption – particularly girls – and also served as an attraction for Westerners looking to adopt what they believed to be unfortunate, abandoned children.  And this became a pretty lucrative market for China, as John Leland, author of the New York Times article, For Adoptive Parents, Questions Without Answers, points out.  So much so that certain provinces began trafficking children into their orphanages in order to receive a $5,000 donation per child from Western foreigners looking to adopt.

With the One-Child Policy in place, it might not make sense why trafficking children would even be necessary, especially since Leland’s first article focused on Chinese mothers whose second child was taken away.  However, the policy does not mean that extra children are automatically taken away by the Chinese government, but that the families might be ineligible for certain government benefits if they opt to keep the child.  That is not what happened, according to the birth mothers in this article.  One of these women claims the Official who came to her door gave her two options: Give up her second child.  Or undergo tubal ligation.

The companion piece to Leland’s first article called, One Answer to Adoption’s Difficult Questions, is even more chilling.  The article chronicled one American adoptive mother’s experience in attempting to find out where her daughter’s birth mother was, and whether or not they had been separated forcibly.

It’s a frightening thought that you might wake up in the middle of the night to your adopted daughter – who was supposedly abandoned at 2 weeks old – crying, “I miss my birth mom.”… <Read More>

Untreated Sex Offenders: Automatically Presumed Neglectful Parents?

The New York Court of Appeals recently decided a case involving a father of five children who was found to be a level three sex offender after being convicted of various crimes, including “rape in the second degree, sexual intercourse with a person less than 15 years of age, and patronizing a prostitute”. Although none of these crimes involved the father’s own children or any other relatives, the court was faced with the question of whether or not the father nevertheless neglected his own children based on his status as a sex offender. … <Read More>

Dropping Divorce Rates for Educated Americans… Is it all Good?

Divorce rates may be on the rise for most Americans, but they are actually decreasing when it comes to college-educated couples.  At first glance, this might appear like a good thing; couples getting married only when they’re truly ready and plan to stay together.  But what about the stigma attached to the couples that do wind up getting a divorce in this segment of the population?  And what happens to the eleven percent of college-educated couples that split and find themselves the only divorcée in their circle of friends?… <Read More>