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Is compelling fatherhood just?

For most families, Father's Day is a joyous occasion to celebrate with family. Others, however, are struggling emotionally and financially, unsure about the implications of fathers' rights in their everyday lives. For many men who have an unplanned child, legal and financial options are surprisingly restricted. What do we do with a community of Minnesota men who are legally mandated to be in their child's lives?

Many political advocates are now arguing that men may have fewer reproductive choices than women, largely because men are legally bound to pay child support if a baby's mother -- or the government -- attempts to establish paternity. Although men can urge their mates to seek abortions or pursue adoption, they have little say in the ultimate fate of the baby, a situation that could cost them a significant amount of money until the child comes of age. After all, women have fought for the right to control their bodies throughout the decades; why are men prohibited from controlling the couple's reproductive choices as well?

Political activists say that men who accidentally impregnate women should be given more options. In other words, fatherhood should not be compulsory. In an argument drafted nearly a decade ago, a feminist philosopher says that a woman's prerogative to abort pregnancies is analogous to men's decision to refuse to pay child support for an unwanted child. In this way, legal paternity is being challenged in courts; men cannot coerce women into having -- or not having -- an abortion, so men should not be coerced into paying for a child they accidentally conceived.

The increasing number of babies born out of wedlock are further complicating these issues. The traditional viewpoint of awarding paternity to the woman's husband is coming into question, as are men's caregiving responsibilities, support roles and biological relationships to children.

If you are experiencing difficulty obtaining child support or contend that you should not be required to pay child support, consider seeking assistance from a qualified family attorney. These professionals can help you understand more about your legal and financial rights as a Minnesota father.

Source:  opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com, "Is forced fatherhood fair?" Laurie Shrage, Jun. 12, 2013

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