Having a child is a momentous occasion – but it’s also sometimes a fairly complicated one, especially if you and your child’s father aren’t together anymore. In reality, going into parenthood, especially with someone to whom you are no longer romantically attached (or maybe even to whom you were never really romantically attached) is definitely a challenge. You’re right to be thinking ahead, to be asking questions, and to be trying to come up with a plan to meet these challenges head on.
Even if it’s “OUR” child, it’s still your birth experience, and it’s an intimate and profound thing. It’s medical, too. Private. I mean, it’s kind of personal. And when I say “kind of”, I mean that it’s really, really, really profoundly personal.
Different people go into parenthood expecting to have different experiences. You and your child’s father might have vastly different ideas about how you plan to parent the child that you’re able to share together, but the birth part is much more up to just you.
Do I have to let my child’s father be present for the birth?
No. You do not. And if you are not comfortable with the idea, I would definitely have no hesitation in saying no.
You don’t have to let anyone in the room who you’d prefer not to have, and that includes your child’s father, your mother in law, your own mother, or anyone else who decides that she or he would like to be present. It’s a medical procedure and it’s your body. You can say no. You should say no, especially if it’s going to be super stressful for you.
Does my child’s father have a right to make decisions about my birth plan?
No. Again, medical decisions are your own. He has no right to participate in decisions about your body, including whether you have a c-section, a VBAC, an epidural, or any other part of your birth plan experience.
Do I have to let my child’s father visit me in the hospital?
Again, no. You are the patient. Sure, there’s a baby involved, but that doesn’t mean you have to allow him to visit you. Especially if it’s stressful. You have a right to say whether or not he can be in your hospital room, and if you say no – you say no. The doctors and nurses won’t force you, and the judge won’t hold it against you later, if it comes down to a custody and visitation situation later.
Do I have to put his name on the birth certificate, or give the baby his last name?
Nope. It’s probably easier to put his name on the birth certificate, especially if he’s absolutely, for sure the father. If you don’t put him on the birth certificate, then you’ll have to have a paternity test done in order to get custody, visitation, and/or child support awarded by the court.
If a paternity test offends you, you can avoid it (unless he contests paternity later) by listing him on the birth certificate.
You don’t have to give the child his last name, either. Or even collaborate together on the first name. But if you DO give the child dad’s last name, then you likely won’t be able to change it later on, if you change your mind and decide that the child should have your last name.
Oftentimes, though, our decisions have unintended consequences, and you’d do well to consider that this could possibly be the case with respect to your newborn. Just because you don’t absolutely HAVE to do something doesn’t mean that he won’t find ways to make life more difficult later on if you don’t. I’m not saying you should give the baby his last name; that’s a super antiquated concept that sort of makes my blood boil. Why should his last name be more valid than yours? If you were married, you would have already made a decision about your last name and, probably naturally, the baby’s last name – but that’s not the case here.
If you don’t allow him in, though, he may get angry – or just scared. He may take that as a sign that he needs to do something proactively, like file for custody and visitation, in order to get the parenting time with the child that he wants. So, consider that, while the decisions are yours to make with respect to the birth and your medical treatment, you might be adding fuel to a fire that could potentially be difficult to put out later.
Would you be able to smooth the situation over, and potentially avoid costly and damaging custody and visitation litigation, by allowing him a short visit, or making some other concessions (not to involve having him physically in the room while you’re giving birth, because that is unreasonable)? Only you know the answer to that.
What should I do about visitation with a newborn? I’ll also be nursing.
Nursing and newborns are extra challenging when it comes to custody and visitation. It doesn’t mean that your child’s father can’t have any time, but it might not look like a typical coparenting arrangement.
You might look into establishing visits that are shorter in duration but more frequent, or that take place in your own home. You probably won’t want to offer overnights right away, but understand that this will likely change as the child gets older.
And it’s also possible that your child’s father will be frustrated and want to take on a more active role. He may petition the court for custody and visitation. If you can’t reach an agreement about custody and visitation, you should be prepared for it.
Most people do reach an agreement, but not everyone – some cases are litigated, even cases involving newborns. You should know as much as you can about custody and visitation cases beforehand, so that you’re prepared for what the court might do or say.
For more information, or to request a copy of our custody and visitation book, give us a call at 757-425-5200.