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April 25, 2008

If you haven’t already stopped by James Rhoades’ blog, please do it today and let him know you’re thinking of him.

Yesterday, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that James did not have “standing” to be a part of his son’s life. I read most of the ruling, including the opinions, and was fairly well appalled at the outcome of the case.  You can see James’ post and read the rest of the ruling here.

These are pieces from Justice Cunningham’s opinion (with which I strongly disagree):

The severely wounded institution of marriage in Kentucky surely protects the parties from unwanted interlopers claiming parenthood of a child conceived and born during their coverture. If not, then I am left to wonder if marriage has any legal meaning at all.

We all agree that the overriding concern in this case is the welfare of the child. When considering the integrity of marriage, as we do here, we are not only dealing with this particular child, but with all children born to married couples. Marriage is an institutional umbrella under whose shade the protection, support, and nurturing of children looms vital. This critical protection extends to the children born of the marriage, if not of the bodies of the marriage.

Said Justice Stephens, “Such suits invite abuse. . . . Not only is a defendant in these suits victim to vindictive or purely mercenary motives of the plaintiff, but such suits are likely to expose minor children of the marriage to one of their parent’s extramarital activities, and may even require the children to testify to details of the family relationship in open court.”‘ 824 S.W. 2d at 427.

By diverting our attention from what rights and protections a married couple has in this state, we turn the focus away from what, I believe, is the main issue . We are selling the pasture to buy the horse. The dissent gives no heed to what is at the center of this controversy – that is, the marriage contract to which the Appellants are parties, and all the rights, privileges, protections, and immunities attached to this long-standing legal arrangement.

The truth is a child was born during a couple’s marriage . The truth is a third party claims parenthood of that child through an adulterous relationship with the child’s mother. The truth is the couple remains married and wishes to raise the child born during their marriage – a child legally presumed to be the husband’s under KRS 406 .011 – without the interference of the interloper.

I truly can’t believe that the focus here is on the legally binding nature of the marriage contract, rather than the fact that a child was biologically born to the wife of the marriage and someone other than her husband. I am awed by the power our judicial system has handed to women with this kind of opinion. If Julia wanted James’ money, then she could go after him for it and the Court would hold him responsible. I believe that if she and her husband eventually divorce, she can still seek suport from James. But if she would rather forget that she was half of the affair that produced this child, she can exclude James from his child’s life until the child is eighteen. One of the Justices suggested, during oral arguments, that they would be making mothers into uber-parents, and that is exactly what this does.

I am particularly disheartened by the fact that their legalese makes James and “unwanted interloper”, although Julia Ricketts definitely didn’t consider him either unwanted or an interloper during their year and a half affair. Why is there no burden on her? Why is she automatically assumed to be the legal parent of this child, though she was half of creating this scenario in the first place, just because she was married at the time that the child was born? Uber-parent, indeed.

And I think it’s also important to note that mothers would never be in this situation. There is never a doubt that a woman is the mother of the child, right? If she gives birth to the child (outside of special circumstances like surrogates), she is the mother. Period. Only men will ever be in this situation.

I agreed strongly with Justice Abramson’s opinion. She says:

Moreover, as explained below, laws which allow for establishment of the biological truth as to the paternity of a child do far more to advance society’s interest in preserving families than those which lock the courthouse doors to anyone but the mother and her husband.

Is the father of a child generally considered to be the man who provided half of the child’s genetic makeup or the man married to the mother who gave birth to the child?

The “marital relationship between the husband and wife” referenced in KRS 406.011 can certainly be said to “cease” when the wife is having sexual intercourse with another man. The “marriage” may still exist as a matter of law and “marital relations” (i.e., sexual intercourse) may still occur between the husband and wife on occasion, or even with regularity, but the monogamous “marital relationship” on which our society is based “ceased” when that third party entered the picture.

This interpretation has the added advantage of comporting with common sense because few people would question that a child born to a married woman and a lover who is not her husband is indeed born out of wedlock.

First, how is the family strengthened when a mother can conceive a child outside of marriage and be assured that she alone knows the child’s biological origins and can control their discovery? She can harbor this secret until divorce, revealing the truth at that juncture if it serves her purposes.

Second, for those who think it places the child in an untenable position vis-a-vis his or her in-home father and perhaps other siblings, there are tens of thousands of blended families all across Kentucky who deal with those types of issues daily. Many marriages include children who are “yours and mine” or “yours, mine and ours” and those families cope with weekend and summer visitation, shared holidays and other aspects of blended families.

Third, knowing the truth about one’s genetic background has both medical and psychological consequences . Is it appropriate to leave a child without such genetic knowledge that could be crucial in the course of his or her life in medical situations? As for the psychological component, it is commonplace that adoptive parents are encouraged to share with their children the fact of their adoption at an appropriate time. Why should children like J.A.R. not have a similar right to know? In short, hiding the truth does not support the integrity of the family or advance the best interests of the child.

In short, our world is full of inconvenient truths. We accomplish nothing for families, the broader community and our justice system when we deny those truths…

Unfortunately, Justice Abramson did not share the majority opinion on this case. And the majority opinion had far more to do with the verbiage of law than with the spirit of law, or with the best interests of this child.

However, I do see light at the end of the tunnel. It sounded very much to me like lobbying the Kentucky General Assembly to adopt the Uniform Parentage Act is the way to go. Once that has occurred, it would seem to me that this could be approached again, with the correct “legalese” in place.

James, I am so sorry for the situation. I am sorry for you and for Julian. I very much want to see Kentucky change their stance on this and allow you and Julian the chance to know each other before he is an adult. I consider this ruling a grave injustice… a major setback for fathers everywhere that are fighting to be a part of their children’s lives. I hope you will continue to fight to be a part of his life. I hope you do lobby the General Assembly and get the letter of the law changed so that you, and other fathers out there, have the ability to know their children.

Until that happens you are, as always, in our prayers.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. cassee01 permalink
    April 25, 2008 8:48 am

    I thought it was awful too. I emailed a link to the blog and the justice’s opinion to CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, People Mag, Time Magazine and Glenn Sacks.

  2. lyndaspix permalink
    April 25, 2008 9:07 am

    Excellent post Steph. It’s a crying shame that fathers are not given the legal rights as parents that mothers are given. It’s unfair, it’s unjust and it’s freakin’ unbelievable!

    James, I left a comment for you yesterday on your blog, but I want to say, again, how sorry I am and hope and pray that you continue your fight to be a part of your son’s life. No matter what anyone says, you’re his daddy!!

  3. April 25, 2008 9:08 am

    Stephanie, you picked up on so many thoughts that ran through my head when I read through this. I checked out James’s site yesterday and left feeling quite disgusted. This appears to be a very slanted and unfair situation.

    Among other things, one thing that bothered me was referring to only James as an “unwanted interloper,” when clearly he was “wanted” at some point. They were both equally involved in wrong.

    I know I am probably being extreme, but the medical thing is really scary to me. What if the child has inherited some rare genetic disorder from James? What if Julia + family all disappear and leaves James no way to contact them, James has a daughter in the future who meets her brother and they fall in love without realizing they are brother and sister? (I KNOW SOMEONE THIS HAS HAPPENED TO.)

    P.S. cassee01, i’d be interested to see if any of them pick up this story and what, if any, impact their coverage will bring to the situation.

  4. April 25, 2008 9:18 am

    I read the decision on James’ blog, but didn’t have a chance to read the full ruling yet. It just disgusts me that we are still living in the dark ages where the sanctity of marriage is somehow more important than the truth. The fact of the matter is that Julia went outside of her marriage and conceived a child with another man. And yet she has absolutely no consequences to face for that? The court doesn’t want Julia’s children to know that she cheated on their father? The court doesn’t want Julian to know that Jonathan is not his real father? Why does she get a free pass? She mad her bed now she needs to lie in it. Children are a lot more resilient then this backwoods court gives them credit for. If everybody was just a little more honest in this situation it would be easier for these families to move on. It would be a learning opportunity for these children to know people make mistakes, but they do their best to do the right thing anyway. Instead we are going to go back to the day when parents sent their pregnant daughters to a home for unwed mothers and said she was visiting a family member for the summer.

    As the wife of a man who had no relationship with his mother or father because of selfish decisions his mother made when she became pregnant, I can guarantee you that Julian will never forgive his mother for blocking his father out of his life. She will greatly regret this decision in 16 to 17 years when Julian is 18 and James is able to tell him the truth…tell him he’s been fighting to see him his entire life and his mother and “father” wouldn’t let him.

    It makes me sick to my stomach that fathers still have no rights in this country. That somehow a mother’s “rights” overshadow those of the father. That four intelligent judges can honestly think sweeping infidelity under a rug is the best solution for a child who will grow up not knowing his true father. I’m sad I live in a country like this.

  5. lucky13 permalink
    April 25, 2008 10:51 am

    Stephanie, a great and well-written post. I can’t believe the obtuseness of the superior court in this. It smacks of corruption if I may say. I cannot fathom that a ruling of this nature took place, and that another human being’s basic rights have been grossly overlooked and denied. If anything, the spotlight should be on the mother’s less than stellar behavior, and for some reason, the court completely swept that under the rug. I and the rest of us can only feel for James’ plight.

  6. April 25, 2008 1:44 pm

    I think this entire situation is characterized by the good old boys club asserting their narrow minded, holier than thou attitude.
    I read through the entirety of the decision, and I cannot figure out how this case came to be about marriage, rather than the paternity and custody of one little boy and his biological father.

    I have serious and grave misgivings regarding the type and amount of power this decision gives mothers, for exactly the same reasons Steph and others have listed above. This decision has effectively erased all standing that biological fathers have during custody deliberations that involve a tricky balance of ‘he said, she said’.

    What this says about the Rickets family is sad. Julia’s husband is raising a little boy whom he knows to not be his- DNA testing has proven this multiple times. How does Julia’s husband treat James’s little boy? Julia works, as does her laywer husband and lawyer father-in-law, AT the KY Supreme Court. It that isn’t enough to smack a reasonable person over the head with big bold letters spelling out corruption, I don’t know what else would.

    In stripping James’s rights to act and have the responsibilities inherent with parenthood, the court has effectively stripped his son of his rights as well.

    What an absolute shame, and utter failure of our court system to recognize and respect fathers. And framing the decision in terms of “protecting the sanctity of marriage”? What utter bullshit. The court completely ignoring the very obvious reality that Julia Ricketts did not respect her marriage enough to remain faithful to her husband. It is akin to claiming, “we respect marriage, and we will firmly look the other way when someone admits to adultery and creates a child with a man that is not her husband”.

  7. April 25, 2008 1:55 pm

    I am so sorry for James….this is gender discrimination and bias as well as high handedness. As hard as it is, move away so that this woman who has proven herself to be an adultress, liar, a fraud (she defrauded her marriage contract)so that she cannot rake you over the legal “coals” again when she demands support from you when her marriage fails…This is ludicrious and a miscarriage of justice…

  8. April 25, 2008 6:38 pm

    Stephanie you and all the special people who frequent your blog are so very kind, and my son and I will never forget your support and prayers. Life is not always easy but knowing good people makes it easier. God bless everyone.

  9. April 25, 2008 6:49 pm

    Forgot…here’s the link to the front page story in the Louisville Courier Journal this morning (second time in a year we made the front page)
    http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080425/NEWS01/804250419

  10. April 25, 2008 7:21 pm

    So if a married man had an affair and got a woman pregnant, that child would belong to the father and his wife??
    There is no way they would take that child away from the mother completely without visitation. NO WAY!

    What a double standard! I would argue that this in unconstitutional. I hope this is picked up and taken on by higher courts until someone with soem sanity can make the right decision. I plan on trying to aid this along as well.
    I’m so sorry, James. I’m just disgusted.

  11. April 26, 2008 9:30 am

    If I could only believe the Supreme Court of Kentucky truly did support marriage and its integrity in all ways, this might make more sense. That does not happen and this is a ridiculous ruling.

    It does seem that “the leaglly binding nature of the marriage contract” was amended, by the biological mother herself, to include James Rhoades.

    God sees. Justice will come for James and his child!

  12. April 26, 2008 12:39 pm

    I can’t believe this has happened. I’m shocked and saddened. This says a lot about how fathers are viewed in our court system.

  13. April 27, 2008 5:28 am

    I’m not shocked. I’m going to feel even worse for James down the road when, after the slut’s marriage is dissolved because her hubby no longer wants to be a cuckold and parent of a child that isn’t his… she’ll take the paternity proof, file in court for child support from James, and he’ll be required to fork-over tens-of-thousands of dollars in back-support + interest.

    The only thing that is surprising about this outcome is that James isn’t already sitting with a judgement of child support for the baby.

  14. April 27, 2008 11:38 am

    I’m going to go off on a tangent here:

    What does this say about gay marriage? Is there maybe a hidden agenda in all of this? Could this be setting the stage for couples who chose to seek outside biological help to solve their fertility issues to exclude the biological parents from any kind of participation?

    I may be way off base, but I don’t see this as being very far removed from surrogacy and unions of a non-traditional nature.

  15. April 27, 2008 11:40 am

    I’m going to go off on a tangent here:

    What does this say about gay marriage? Is there maybe a hidden agenda in all of this? Could this be setting the stage for couples who chose to seek outside biological help to solve their fertility issues to exclude the biological parents from any kind of participation?

    I may be way off base, but I don’t see this as being very far removed from surrogacy and unions of a non-traditional nature.

  16. April 27, 2008 4:12 pm

    The Louisville Courier Journal did an editorial on the Kentucky Supreme Court decision today. And they basically said it sucked and was stupid…check it out here

    http://courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080427/OPINION01/804270395/1055/OPINION

  17. starshine30 permalink
    April 29, 2008 4:02 pm

    I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach as I read about the Supreme Courts decision.

  18. MrW permalink
    May 20, 2008 6:43 pm

    You mention in your article that James’s best shot is to get the law changed and then seek redress. He’ll likely never get that chance. I suspect and would encourage the Ricketts to leave Kentucky before the Governor signs such bill and seek the safety of one of the other 13 wise states that protect families from these interlopers. I could conceive of cases where I’d have sympathy for an interloper, this isn’t such case. Besides embracing and putting on display his evil abusive adulterous behavior, look closely at the depositions HE posted, unrefuted, on his own website. Julia disclosed that this guy tried to suckle Jon’s son on his nipple. This guy isn’t exactly the fathers rights poster boy rather he is the perfect example of why these presumptions of parentage laws are necessary and effective. Other men ARE abusive per se and should be afforded no right to redress in OUR court systems anywhere. Mr. Ricketts, as the only non-adulerous party involved needs the peace to restore his family without James’s on-going and obnoxious interference.

  19. May 21, 2008 1:54 pm

    MrW,

    I’m not sure what your relation to the Rickett’s family is. I have no relation to any party involved in this.

    However, as a stepmother for 6 years AND someone who has given a great deal of her life in those years to raise someone else’s biological children, I find your logic flawed.

    Regardless of Jon’s fitness as a parent, he has a right to be acknowledged as the biological parent, despite its inconvenience to Mr. Ricketts.

    Further, I fail to understand Mr. Ricketts undying desire to raise a child that is not his. While I fully understand the love you can have for someone else’s children (I love my stepsons very much), I will never understand how ANYONE could think that it is loving to lie to and deny a child contact with his/her biological parent.

    This is a tragic story, but the adults in this situation have had many opportunities to pick up the pieces for this little boy and do the best by him now. A family held together by lies (the lie being told to this little boy) will crumble quicker than one cemented by hard truths and love.

    As a stepparent, I am insulted that Mr. Ricketts chooses to diminish the loving and important role he could have in this little boy’s life by pretending to be something he is not. No amount of wishing, foot stamping and crying will EVER make him this little boy’s father. Furthermore, with each day that he pretends that he is something he is not, he is driving a bigger wedge in his family and perpetuating a lie that will eventually cost him the trust and respect of his stepson.

  20. May 22, 2008 10:09 am

    Mr. W.

    I agree that your logic is flawed. A child benefits best when all involved parents can be active in his or her life in a health and fit way.

    So. if there is a concern on the stablity of the parenting of Mr. Rhoades, why not give a third party the ability to monitor and help facilitate a health relationship between the child and his biological father? Would this not resolve the issues at hand?

    Second, I know first hand what it feels like to find out that your spouse has been unfaithful in that marriage. I know how incredibly hard it is to get past the anger, hurt, and fears that come along with that realization. Depriving Mr. Rhoades of a relationship with his son will NOT resolve those feelings, in fact, they will allow him only to hang on to the hurt and pain that goes hand in hand with that situation.

    What Julia and James did was wrong! However, consequences of actions have occured and innocent people such as Mr. Ricketts and this child are and will be effected. Now is the time that these adults own up to the consequences and find a healthy balance for all people involved.

    -d

  21. May 22, 2008 12:19 pm

    I just left a post on “Typical Momma” blog, but I’ll post it here not being sure if she’ll accept it. And for the record, I’ve never asked anyone on Stephanies blog to condone my participation in an affair, rather I’ve only asked for your prayers regarding my son and his mother. You’ll never know how much your kind words and prayers have meant to me, for you all have always accepted me as my son’s father and nothing less, which I greatly appreciated.

    To Typical Momma:

    I won’t hyperlink my website on your blog since you find it so awful and reprehensible. Of course those descriptions should really be reserved for lying to children and denying a father access to his son. Oh wait…I’m just the “biologically involved father” guess that makes me a secondary father in your book. Look I’ve admitted that the affair was wrong BUT I won’t be second class anything to my son. Julia Ricketts 2nd husband is my son’s step-father NOT his daddy or father.

    FYI…the website was created to shine the light on the truth! Julia and her husband lied to the Courts and legal community about the facts for months and months. I had to combat their lies if I were to stand any chance in seeing my son. Is it hard for the Ricketts to be reminded of the affair and my fatherhood? I sure hope so! I hope they never forget what they’ve done. For everyday I’m left to wonder, hope, and pray my little boy is okay. I haven’t seen him for over a year, and due to no fault of my own. But let’s cry about a website and some media attention.

    Am I a bad person for having an affair? Sure. But does that make me any less of a father? Does that make me not love my son? Anybody that has a problem with me using everything at my desposal to put out the truth and make my son’s captives feel uncomfortable….go a year without seeing your child and go a couple of years without getting any information on your child’s safety and development. And let your child’s mother and her husband lie to everyone in the judicial system as to cut you out of your child’s life.

    And then say how disgusting you think a website with pictures, video, and documents attesting and proving who you say you are is in fact true!!!

  22. May 22, 2008 12:45 pm

    Ooops, typo:

    “Regardless of Jon’s fitness as a parent, he has a right to be acknowledged as the biological parent, despite its inconvenience to Mr. Ricketts.”

    Should read:

    “Regardless of JAMES’s fitness as a parent, he has a right to be acknowledged as the biological parent, despite its inconvenience to Mr. Ricketts.”

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