A couple welcomes a new baby, but the father isn't quite ready to sign the birth certificate.
Ron and Linda discuss how the mother and father might be feeling and how they can over overcome the birth certificate drama to rebuild trust in their coparenting relationship.
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Ron Gore 0:00
Alright, so we're starting off today with a Reddit post. And here's the title of the Reddit post that caught my eye because I had a case a lot like this before. So the title is father didn't sign the birth certificate, am I wrong for not allowing him to see our daughter. And here's the basic thumbnail synopsis, I'm leaving some parts out probably parts that are relevant. So it's not perfect in any way. But there's an unmarried couple. She has a child in the hospital, he goes to the hospital to see the child. She wants him to sign the birth certificate. Because if you've never had a child before, you know, that's where that gets done, hopefully, is at the hospital. And he gets cold feet, doesn't want to do it. She withholds visitation, they also have an argument about the name. He wanted the child to have his last name, even though I guess he wasn't ready to sign the birth certificate. And she did not. But she was open, potentially, to a hyphenated last name, although they had both rejected that idea before. So apparently, they had had conversations about it. So lots going on.
Linda VanValkenburg 1:12
A lot of distrust going on on both sides, and she's feeling hurt. And he's feeling pretty leery about what's going on. And but he's kind of given her a mixed message, perhaps about what she wants. And she might be giving him a mixed message back because, you know, they're both kind of not too sure where they stand with each other.
Ron Gore 1:32
Yeah, so all right, I can understand maybe the guy's perspective. And I always have a little bit more trouble understanding the lady's perspective. So you can orient me on that, you know, from the guy's perspective, you know, it's really unfair for him to say, well, you know, maybe I'm not the only person she's with, she could certainly think the same thing about him. You know, they're, they're not married, and they're in this relationship.
Linda VanValkenburg 2:00
That's probably something that has come up or might have been answered before they're in the hospital together. Unless there, it's just, you know, I've had several cases where it just literally was a one night stand, and they haven't really had much contact with each other in the last nine months. You know.
Ron Gore 2:20
So when you're saying might, are you saying should? Like it should have been talked about before?
Linda VanValkenburg 2:24
It would have been nice. Yes, it would have been nice to, for it to come up. So that we're not, in, as you just said about women, you know, I mean, that's, that's an extremely vulnerable, emotional time for a woman right after having given birth. I mean, literally, she's still in the hospital. And he's, you know, questioning her ability to know who the father is.
Ron Gore 2:50
Yeah, for sure. Definitely not the way you want to start that relationship with the new baby. You know, from his perspective, you sign a birth certificate and that's the beginning of the road to 18 years of child support. That's a big thing that you're signing and it's simply not the birth certificate itself. It'll be some other acknowledgment of paternity. And you know, the answer to that, and what she sort of said was, well, let's get a DNA test, if you're not sure about it. But that's not immediate. You can't just do a DNA test right there. And there are cases in which a person signs an acknowledgment of paternity, and, you know, the birth certificate. And there have been cases where judges wouldn't let them out. Right, the obligation, so it's not a little thing.
Linda VanValkenburg 3:41
Right. And then we both have cases where, you know, a guy comes back many years later, or maybe the woman looks him up many years later to let him know he has a child that we didn't find out about when we should have to so it can go all sorts of different directions there.
Ron Gore 3:55
Well, so let's think about this from sort of the kid's perspective, because that's our perspective. What actual benefit is there in terms of bonding for a child to have interaction with the father during that, not just the hospital stay, but let's assume if they're going down this road is going to be a few months before he can get into a court and have some legal rights granted? What's the benefit to the child over those three months of bonding with him? Is it possible, how does that work?
Linda VanValkenburg 4:27
Oh, yes, it's wonderful to have the father there and have father bonding as well. And in this case, it sounded like the father knew the aunt of the mother. And they were close and the aunt was facilitating a lot of time for the father to come to their house and the mother was living with the aunt. So it was, you know, on one hand, that looks like the aunt is very intrusive and the mother at one point in the letter says that she's asked her aunt to stay out of it and ask him to stop running to her aunt for, you know, time with the child and so forth, and, and yet, it is kind of in the middle by virtue of the fact that mom is living with her. And so it's, you know, you can't just, it's great to set boundaries appropriately. But on the other hand, if you're imposing on that person to live in her home, then that person could kind of decide, I guess, if she likes the father, if she wants him around too so it's a complicated situation.
Ron Gore 5:28
That is, and you know, and also, not just so we know that the child can bond, you know, and obviously, they don't know the words, and they may not even have the great eyesight, right away to start doing that bonding, but the big gesture and facial expressions, smiles, all of those things were the ways that it's going to bond. And also, I think it's important not to neglect the idea that you want to sort of drum into that father as soon as possible that he is now a father. Because so much of parenting, especially from the father's perspective is on how much you view yourself in that parental role. You know, and you and I've talked about before, they had this study where they were putting cameras in a NICU, neonatal intensive care units, to allow family members to see the child, even though they couldn't be with the child because of the medical procedures. And it was important to facilitate bonding of the family with that child. So it's not just the child who needs to bond with the dad is the dad who needs to start to understand that he's a father and think of himself separate from I'm this guy, I'm also now this father.
Linda VanValkenburg 6:46
Because once again, biologically, the mother starts feeling that from the very beginning, and for the nine months that she is carrying the child and it's, it's hard on the guy sometimes, especially if they're not in, I don't think this said whether they had been living together or, but you know, if you're not, together-together, or, you know, planning on having a child together, then that frequently changes that initial bonding, you know, for where you're doing a lot of things together, around the pregnancy. And so it definitely does, does need to be looked at now, of course, you and I see many mothers who feel like, I mean, I've heard so many times I think it applies to this case, I'm like, this is the very beginning of it, in this situation is they will tell me when the kid is, you know, seven or 15 that, you know, I've done everything there is to do with this child, you know, I've taken this child to every single doctor's appointment and every day of school and you name it, and where's he been? And so, you know, he's going to be one of these kinds of guys, unless she lets him in.
Ron Gore 8:00
Well, you know, sometimes my, my initial, maybe not the most common response to that is, well, she's been at the lumber company getting all that wood to build those gates. Because she is keeping him from there. And one of the things, one of the parts of her Reddit posts she's talking about, she's feeling really confused. And you know, understandably so without, he's going back and forth. But says, you know, he's coming over, and he wants to help, I guess at the aunt's house, and he's calling her the child, my daughter, my baby, my, and she says it really rubs her the wrong way. And there's that possessiveness that we see so often in new parents, and when it's a possessiveness between the parents, then that is trouble.
Linda VanValkenburg 8:47
Right. Now, I was kind of surprised. Interesting, you mentioned that because I was actually kind of surprised to read the, the term our daughter in here a lot right from the mother, because I read tons of emails, that seems like every day from client mothers and fathers and frequently, the mother uses the my pronoun for my daughter, my son is not happy with this or that my daughter is having a problem with seeing usually, the guys first name, you know, Joe with the next session, you know, that kind of thing. And so I give this woman props for using the "our" terminology for the fact that, you know, she is if without the DNA proof in it is, she sounds like she wants the guy to be the father and thinks he is so, you know, you might want to jump on that and appreciate it.
Ron Gore 9:56
Yeah, he definitely should be appreciative of her basic instinct, which is to want him around, which seems like is only being tempered by him saying he doesn't want to make himself legally liable at the moment, so of course, she's confused. And I think she's really struggling with a really legitimate internal conflict and wants the best for this baby. But you know, another thing towards the end of it, she's asking this question, am I wrong for denying him visitation to our daughter? And that, to me has always been kind of an interesting perspective. I mean, it is the case that the mother has the child, and has that initial possession if there's, if there's not a marriage, but in always wonder in what sense, does she feel she has the right to deny the child access to the child's father. Now, I'm not worried about what's fair for the guy. That's not my concern at all. But she's denying her child whom she loves access to the child's own father. And presumably, she knows whether or not he's the father. Because this is an asymmetrical information situation, she has better access to better information about the key thing than he does, yes. And so, she should be acting, I think, with some more generosity of spirit, understanding that he doesn't know.
Linda VanValkenburg 11:22
I think that's just because she feels hurt that he's not just all lovey-dovey and excited, and so forth. You know, where, that's, that's her desire right then biologically to be modeling with him as well as parenting their child. And he does, or she says, toward the end here that he does want to go to court. So you know, I mean, that's where you come in, I would think that at some point, he does need to kick into proving his paternity.
Ron Gore 11:52
I mean, it should be done immediately. But lots of times, too. When it says he wants to go to court, a lot of times what that is, is, the paternal grandmother is saying, I'm not going to be the one dictated to by her, we need to get to your own rights, so that we can have that child in our house as well. And that can be such, it can be a motivator to get the case done, and often is the source of financial resources to get done. But just like moms, new moms, sometimes create improper gates, to keep the father away. Grandmothers, especially paternal grandmothers of young men, very often overplay their hand.
Linda VanValkenburg 12:41
And it can work the other way around, too, with the maternal grandmother's protecting, in quotes the grandchildren from the guy, especially if they're not real happy with the person that their daughter chose to be the father. And it can also be the case that those gates are still up or are built, when parents have been married for years and are have been together for a long time. And they're getting a divorce, you know, more often than not, I don't know if I could put a percentage to it. But I see, when parents do get a divorce, they, the kids almost always leave the home with the mother or dad leaves the home and leaves the kids there. And then we have a tug of war over who's going to have what kind of visitation or how long is it before dad does get to see him again.
Ron Gore 13:35
And honestly kind of want that to happen. Because in terms of one of them leaving because the worst thing that happened was for them both to stay in the house and very often because of just how families set up their economic systems, very often its' the father who feels more comfortable in actually being able to go out and get a small apartment and maintain the family, their residence and so there's lots of different ways I think in which that works. One of the thoughts that I'm thinking is, boy, where do they go from here? So they have this issue of distrust at the very beginning. This may not be the first time that they ran into issues of trust, we don't know, right? We're sort of jumping in at the delivery stage? But he wants to get this DNA test and there's lots of good reasons why he would and I'm sure his chorus you know, we all have this Greek chorus of our family and friends who are like telling us things and I'm sure his this and don't sign anything to you get that DNA test. Will she ever forgive him for ruining from her perspective, what should be a really wonderful stress-free time, enjoying that new baby?
Linda VanValkenburg 14:50
Once again, I think that that cow's already out of the barn, as they say, you know, I mean we should have made a lot of things should have been a little bit better in the first place. But so often now this is the way it seems to work where things are not ever so traditional. And so what do we do about that, and sometimes I think people do need to be protective and have those boundaries up on both sides until they're for sure about things. But that's what I would hope that the, and I don't know how fast the paternity actions really did move. But I would hope it would move as fast as possible to, to let them have some time to bond at the beginning.
Ron Gore 15:32
The ones that move super fast are the ones that maybe didn't even need to go to court. And it's I mean, they all need to go to court to establish everybody's rights. But in terms of the interaction and the father being around, the ones that happen quickly, are usually the ones where the folks don't even go to court for a while. Now, I never recommend that to my clients because at least in Oklahoma, you have no rights until a court establishes them. Just for the very reason he's talking about here. We all know that that mother is the mother of that child, but there's no real way to know about the father. Until you get a DNA test. Well, so I wonder, what are some ways they can build up their trust? You know, how did they come back from this?
Linda VanValkenburg 16:18
Well, she mentioned at one point that they had gone to her therapist I guess. And I think it was just one time that he went, but that was a very good idea. And something they should either explore further, I think with that therapist, if he felt comfortable, or if he didn't, because it was hard therapists maybe find one together a coparenting therapist. And that's, that's a role that I do more and more. Because it you know, I think before such a thing as a coparenting therapist was ordered by the court. It used to just be a relationship therapist or a marital therapist, but it didn't really seem to apply when they weren't married ever and or, you know, the child came before the marriage or significant relationship. And so it's, it's a, an easy way to engage the therapist for two people that are not married, but they do have a child together. And so they will be coparenting.
Ron Gore 17:25
And then in practical terms, I think just little baby steps of, of reaching out and being vulnerable, allowing the other person to meet your expectations, and then doing it over and over and over again, until you can build that trust back up starting with small things that maybe don't put you at great risk if the person lets you down. And then before you know it, you can actually rebuild some trust.
Linda VanValkenburg 17:50
I liked the line there where she said, I realized I need to grow up and deal with him myself. So in other words, not just let her aunt deal with him all the time? And then he's gonna have to start communicating with me if he wants to see her daughter. So she, I liked that she owned first of all, what she needed to change and do differently. So you know, she's, that's what I'm saying. I really do believe that she's got an investment in this dude, to the extent that he must be the father or she wouldn't be, you know, so invested in okay, I know what I need to do here and I need to communicate with him.
Ron Gore 18:27
Well, let's wish them all the luck in the world. You know, really, it seems like they have some real good intentions going into this and they're making some better steps than a lot of people in their situations. So more power to him.