Teenaged Father, Who Claims He Was Threatened With Rape Charge, Loses Bid to Block Adoption
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A teenager who claims he did not offer financial or emotional support for his pregnant girlfriend because he feared being prosecuted for using a “date-rape” drug on her has no right to object to the child being adopted by the mother’s parents, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Justice Raymond Ikola, writing for the Court of Appeal’s Div. Three, said Paul M., as the court identified him, could not object to the adoption, which the 16-year-old mother agreed to, because he was not a “presumed father” as defined by statute and had not stepped forward to exercise parental responsibilities.
Paul was shown by genetic testing, which he requested, to be the biological father of the child, Arthur M. Offering financial support and seeking custody or visitation rights, he claimed that he learned of the pregnancy from a third party rather than the mother, Meghan McG.; and that he doubted the child was his before the test results showed that it was, but offered to help Meghan tell her parents about the pregnancy and/or to drive her to a doctor.
Meghan, however, testified that she told Paul that she was pregnant and that she was certain he was the father as soon as a home pregnancy test confirmed her condition, and that he offered no emotional or financial support. Later, she testified, he insisted that she have an abortion, which she was unwilling to do; she told him she intended to have the child and then offer him or her for adoption.
Paul, she said, was threatening and angry when she told him she would not abort the child. A friend who was present at the time also testified as to the confrontation, which Paul denied.
In January 2006, shortly after the baby was born and seven months after Meghan said she told Paul of the pregnancy, Meghan’s parents petitioned to adopt the child. In their original pleading, they alleged that the child’s conception was the product “of unconsensual & forced intercourse committed by Paul . . . against mother” while drugged, although they later withdrew that allegation.
Orange Superior Court Commissioner Julian Cimbaluk granted the petition, ruling that Paul lacked standing to contest the adoption.
Ikola, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the commissioner’s decision was supported by substantial evidence.
In doing so, the justice said the court had “come up empty-handed” in its search for evidence to support Paul’s claim that it was fear of prosecution that caused him to evade responsibility for the unborn child’s well-being.
“There is nothing in the record giving rise to a reasonable inference that Paul knew about the rape charges at any time before January 2006, after the baby’s birth, when he read or was told of the allegations contained in [the grandparents’] original adoption petition,” Ikola wrote.
“Paul testified he believed or ‘knew’ at that time that ‘there was a potentially criminal action pending against’ him. Paul also stated he was concerned about prosecution of a criminal action ‘as soon as the D.A. told me they tried to file,’ but there is no evidence as to when that event occurred. Likewise, Paul testified he hired a criminal attorney, but there is no evidence as to when that occurred. Paul stated he was advised by criminal counsel to stay away from Meghan and her parents, but there is no evidence as to when that advice was given. Paul said he took his lawyers’ advice because he was afraid he would be charged with harassment if he attempted any contact with Meghan, but again, there is no time reference for that testimony.”
The trier of fact, Ikola went on to say, was likewise entitled to reject Paul’s claim that he adequately attempted to exercise his responsibilities to the unborn child by urging Meghan to see a doctor, offering to pay her bills, asking for early paternity testing, and offering to help Meghan talk to her parents about the pregnancy.
“The problem with Paul’s history of events is that it runs headlong into a record replete with conflicting testimony and contrary reasonable inferences regarding Paul’s conduct and the spirit that moved him,” Ikola wrote.
The case is Adoption of Arthur M., G037706.