Do fathers have the right to know?

by mssinglemama on December 15, 2008

It’s a question I have asked before…

And recently there has been a string of very passionate comments on my post, “She’s pregnant, should she tell the father?” It’s an issue that never gets old, especially for women who find themselves pregnant by a stranger or a passing boyfriend.

I know of two men who have found out they’ve fathered a child years after the fact. One is a class-act, completely diving into fatherhood. The other pays his child support but has never actually met his own son and has no desire to (something I can not understand at all). But humans will be humans, men will be men, and let’s face it, we aren’t always ready for the job.

So, if you’re pregnant and have no relationship with the father are you morally obligated to tell him? What do you think?

Hop over here to read the old post and the fascinating discussion that unfolded.

And let me throw a new question out there – what if she is going to have an abortion? Is the mother morally obligated to tell the father? Guys would you rather not know?

[P.S. A fantastic book, if you have found yourself in this situation, is Accidentally on Purpose by Mary Pols.]

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Random Esquire December 15, 2008 at 10:53 pm

I saw your twitter and it prompted me to check this out…you said in your twitter:

“If a woman is pregnant – does the father (if he’s a loser) have the right to know?”

A man’s right to know if he has a child or if a woman is pregnant with his child seems completely apart from:

1) if he’s a jerk


2) if the father and mother have a relationship.

I mean, right? His right to know can’t possibly be tied to whether or not she thinks he is an ass. And his right to know can’t be based upon his relationship with the woman – that seems way too…well, unfair, frankly.

If the father is a *danger* to either mother or child (mentally or physically), I see that making his right to know more tenuous.

But I think it’s sort of dangerous ground to base someone’s right to know if they’ve fathered a child on either someone’s opinion of him (no matter if everyone agrees he is an ass…) or if there is no longer a relationship. Doesn’t he have a right in and of itself?

As always – great thought provoking read, MsSingleMama!



Allie February 24, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Maybe she shouldn't have had sex with a man that she doesn't believe is Father material! Just a common sense thought


mssinglemama December 15, 2008 at 10:59 pm

Yeah. Twitter makes me shorten my thoughts to 140 characters…

I’ve personally never heard of a woman scared to tell the father if he’s a stand up guy in life. Most of the time – if she chooses not to tell him – it’s because he has drug or violence issues.

So that’s what I meant by “if he’s a loser.”

If it’s just a matter of opinion – that she just doesn’t like him – well, that seems completely unfair to me as well.

But what if he thinks she may harm her child physically or emotionally? With that said, I do believe this is a very, very valid question.

Thanks for the comment and for forcing me to clarify my Twitter.


SingleParentDad December 16, 2008 at 2:41 am

It is always the extremes that cause the controversy. I know circumstance can through up all sorts of situations, that are unfair or unwanted, but it’s a balance of resonsibility versus what is best for the unborn child. The women always get to know, whatever sort of parent they are going to make. But there is a case for not advising a dangerous father, as much as there is for taking a child into care from birth.

The case of Darth Vader is a ridiculous one, yet actually morale ridden. Evil, so he is led to beleive his children died in child birth. Learns this to be untrue, kicks off a bit, tries to destroy a few planets, but eventually comes good for his nippers, Oh after he’s chopped one of their hands off in a dispute.

Now there’s a Jerry Springer.


Kazue February 3, 2015 at 10:57 am

The very crux of your writing while apeparing reasonable at first, did not settle very well with me personally after some time. Someplace throughout the paragraphs you actually managed to make me a believer but just for a very short while. I nevertheless have a problem with your jumps in assumptions and one might do nicely to help fill in those gaps. If you can accomplish that, I will certainly end up being impressed.


Anonymous December 16, 2008 at 3:08 am

Hmmm… one of those “what-if” questions (sneaky Ms Single Mama 🙂

The question is moot because like abortion, it will be the mother’s CHOICE to release what information she chooses to, regardless of what we write here.

Should, would and could; 3 meaningless words. Mental masturbation.


Angie December 16, 2008 at 6:25 am

With the exception of rape and sperm donor – the father has a right to know.

People can make drastic changes in the spirit of being a good parent. I know I did! I was damned near an acholic who didn’t give a damn about anything but the next party. Smoked a pack a day, was stoned more than I wasn’t. If I were a guy, I would probably fall into your idea of somebody who doesn’t have a right to know. But, that didn’t stop me from making a 180 the day I found out.

Also, your child has a right to at least have a chance of having a relationship with their dad. We know there is no guarantee, some men are there while others aren’t. But, you can’t make that your fault. If you don’t tell dad your child will be able to blame YOU for their father being absent.

And, even if you develop a relationship with a ‘replacement dad’ who you feel is a better influence, it’s still not right. Children are genetically tied to their birth parents, whether we like it or not. Your child will be better off if they know their birth parent – the good AND the bad. It will help them understand themselves.

Fathers need to be informed and need to make their decisions. Women don’t have a right to deny them, although plenty do.


mssinglemama December 16, 2008 at 6:36 am

Everyone is commenting in two places… that’s okay but there are so many amazing thoughts on this.

Check this one out from Rita, she just told the father and this was his reaction –

“I got pregnant to an old flame who lives on the other side of the world. I told him after much thought and he was very angry with me, angry!! It’s amazing isn’t it? He took a risk, I told him I wasn’t on the pill yet he is mad with me for keeping the baby. I told him I didn’t want anything from him and that if he ever did want to be involved with our child he could be and he just stayed angry so I stopped contact and haven’t heard from him since 8 weeks into the pregnancy. My son is now four weeks old and I’m trying to work out whether to contact him to try to get him to sign the birth certificate. I feel bad for my son about the idea of having ‘unknown’ on there, I’m going to get legal advice this week.

But I’m glad I told him. I think it’s important for our children that they’re fathers know they exist and that we have tried. But yes I think if the fathers are violent or crazy then that’s a different story and I understand why you may not want to tell him.

And I’ve almost finished reading ‘Accidentally on purpose’, it’s a great read especially for women like us who are going through something a bit similar.”


mssinglemama December 16, 2008 at 6:38 am

Here’s where you can find Rita’s comment and others from single motheres actually faced with the decision:

And Annonymous – I hardly think this is sneaky… and it’s not a moot point because the mothers are usually morally confused on what to do – going back and forth before making a decision.


cyndi December 16, 2008 at 8:07 am

Absolutely the father has the right to know. 100% yes yes yes. It has nothing to do with whether mom likes the dad or not. Not her call to make. What do you tell the poor child someday when he asks about his father? Oh sorry, mommy just didn’t tell him about you? I made the decision for both him and you that you wouldn’t have any contact or a relatinoship with your daddy? Eventually the child will find out the truth and something like that will be turned around against mom. Also, she needs to understand the fact that if she hides it from him and he later finds out, it can be used against her in court as alienating the other parent if he wants to be involved and have visits with the child… which he has every legal right to do.

I’m staying out of the abortion part of the question.


Wyliekat December 16, 2008 at 8:32 am

You consent to sex, you consent to the consequences. When you consent to the consequences, one of those is that if you end up pregnant, you tell the other consenting party.


Kati December 16, 2008 at 8:41 am

I think every child deserves to have the opportunity to have a father. If the father chooses not to be involved then that is the father’s loss. I had to ask myself this question before and I decided it would not be easy to answer questions from my son when he started asking them had I been the reason his father wasnt in his life. Now my son will see for himself that his father is an ambivilant loser. It is a lose lose situation for me but not all guys out there are dead beats. I think you have to tell the father for the child’s sake.


J-fo December 16, 2008 at 9:56 am

I agree with Wyliekat 100%. (Unless it’s rape, which is a completely separate topic)

While the decision over whether or not to bear the child does, for obvious biological reasons, lie with the woman…the man was there. It’s his child. He deserves to know.


Laura December 16, 2008 at 10:07 am

Yes the father has a right to know!

I think it is incredible selfish to withhold information like this! Wether it was a one night stand or a long term relationship – the father has every right to know and every right to be involved in the decision making of what happens!


Luciana February 4, 2015 at 5:51 am

The crux of your writing while souidnng reasonable initially, did not settle perfectly with me personally after some time. Someplace within the paragraphs you were able to make me a believer unfortunately just for a short while. I nevertheless have got a problem with your leaps in logic and one might do nicely to fill in all those gaps. When you actually can accomplish that, I could undoubtedly be fascinated.


k December 16, 2008 at 10:43 am

I wrote on the other page, you can go see if if you want, but my view is that the father should know. I’m adopted and I still don’t know where my father is. My bio-mom (who is lovely and i’m happy to have her in my life) made the decision for me that I was never to know him – again, see the other page for the entire thing.
The father has every right to know. Two people made that child, whether or not he’s crazy, it was both people’s decision to have sex in the first place. That is one of the things that can happen when you put yourself in that situation.
Both people should take responsibility. If the father decides to skip out – let him make that decision. Don’t make it for him. If it’s more complicated, figure out how to make it less. IF the father is someone who you don’t want there, but he wants to be there – think of the child.
30 years later, and I still want to know who my father is.


Nikki December 16, 2008 at 12:30 pm

By NOT telling the father, we as women carry the full burden of responsibility for what happens. If two people were mutually horizontal and a child was conceived, then both individuals are responsible for what happens. How the father responds is his responsibility. It seems most of us as single mothers must concern ourselves with the vacancy and irresponsibility of the father and carry the full burden of it, anyway. But again, we as strong single mamas are to teach our angels right from wrong. By living a right life for them and keeping them as our focus, we teach them integrity. The absent father will teach them what irresponsibility and vacancy looks like. And that is not our responsibility. We’re just to love our babes doubly when they are affected by the vacancy. Not easy. But anything worth having is not easy.


anonymous December 16, 2008 at 1:16 pm

honestly, if the girl is going to have an abortion anyway and the guy can’t do anything about it- then I say don’t tell him. It’s the woman’s choice and the man will only have to carry the guilt. Which- might I add- I don’t think a woman should feel guilty for making this choice. It’s not an easy decision by any means nor a pleasant one- but it’s not something you should feel guilty about. And if the Dad is a loser- and the mother wants to keep the baby- then I think it’s entirely up to her- but I don’t think there is ANY obligation if there wasn’t a trusting relationship. People make mistakes (and please don’t think I’m calling children mistakes, i promise I’m not!) but we all need to be able to make the choices to fix the mistakes by ourselves and no one is obligated to do anything.


littlemansmom December 16, 2008 at 1:30 pm

With the exception of extenuationg circumstances I feel that yes, the father should be told. Whetjer or not he gets involved is a whole different story, but he should at least know.

As for the added question of ‘what if she’s getting an abortion’, I’d have to say no, don’t tell. Only because it’s really not fair to him if he WANTED to keep the child but she wasn’t prepared to carry the baby to term. It’s almost mean! Of course (as touchy as this subject can be) it is her body and ultimately her decision, so unless she knew he’d be in agreement, it should probably be kept to herself.

All in all, it’s a tough spot to be in, and of course this is only MY OPINION, certainly not right or wrong, just opinions…..


jen December 16, 2008 at 3:35 pm

I became pregnant while having a holiday romance. I did tell the father because I thought it extremely unfair not to. I wouldn’t have told him if I was going to have an abortion as I know he would have been opposed to it.

Having said all that he has nothing to do with his son financially or otherwise. He is in another country but has lost all contact with us and I don’t know, and am not trying that hard, where to find him. I’ve told my son that if he wants to I’ll help him find him when he’s ready.


Cheryl December 17, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Interesting, interesting…

I chose to tell him. We tried to make a go of it for almost 2 years. He still comes to visit Declan once a month, but has never paid any financial support. I never put him on the birth certificate (there is NO father listed on her BC in fact, and she has my last name), though when she was about 1 and 1/2 we went through the motions of filling out all the paperwork to do so. I sent it all in, they returned it asking for another form, so we filled that out as well. And then I never sent it back.

I’m not sure I ever will.

I think it’s at least right to TELL (not sure about telling in the case of an abortion)… if nothing else, children have a right to know the truth of their origins, and IMO that includes the right to have a relationship w/ their father, whether we end up w/ them or not.

Good post A!!


Kat December 18, 2008 at 1:29 am

In the case of abortion, no, what’s the point really?

But if the mother chooses to keep the baby, absolutely the father has a right to know.
We, just because we choose to carry, deliver, and care for the child for 18 years, does not give us the right to just exclude the man because we feel like it.

How the father reacts and what he chooses to do, is up to him.
He can choose to be a part of the child’s life or not, pay support or not, totally up to him.
If he chooses to not be a part of the child’s life right now, I would inform him that someday his child may come looking for him, may want to have a relationship with him, or just meet him so he has an idea of where he came from, and that when that time comes, I will help him find his father.

I have known a few women who chose not to tell the father, they lived their lives just fine, and then they fell on hard times and needed welfare help.
In order to get it, they had to disclose the name and info on the child’s father.
The fallout from it was a freaking nightmare.
A 10 year old child he never knew he had, and suddenly the state is going after him for child support.
You can imagine the father’s shock and anger I hope?
One father was so angry that he had been deprived of a relationship with his child, that he sued for custody and won.
She was out of work, living on welfare, he owned his home, had an excellent job, a stay at home wife with his other kids, and a really brilliant lawyer.
He won custody because of her deception, or omission of information if you want to call it that, and the tables were drastically turned.
He got custody, she got visitation and court ordered child support payments to pay him now.
Because she no longer had the kid, she didn’t have the burden of paying for day care and a larger apartment, so the courts forced her to get a job, move in a smaller place, and pay him $200 per month.

Not telling the father may seem like a good idea to some women right off the bat, but you can’t predict your life 10 yrs down the road, you can’t predict that the loser will always be a loser, and you could be like my friend Jenni from high school who lost her son that way.


Allie February 24, 2009 at 3:32 pm

This is exactly what happened to my fiance of 3 yrs. Last week we found out that he may have a 10 yr old. He met this woman at a party 10 yrs ago and spent an hour with her. They had protected sex and he never heard from her again. Didn't know her last name. We have found out that she married soon after the 10 yr old was born. She is now divorced and going on welfare. Got a letter in the mail that says he has been named the father of a child. He took the paternity test. I think that it is terrible that she deprived her son and my fiance, if he is the natural father the truth. The child is now old enough to know and understand the deception. His life will never be the same. I know this for a fact because I am a product of the same situation. When I found this out at about this age it really messed me up. This is a no win situation for any of the parties involved. Especially the child.


Foui January 10, 2009 at 5:11 am

It takes two to make a child. It takes two to make a decision.

On abortion, the woman has the final word, but I think it’s only normal to tell the man.

You cannot expect a man who learns he’s a father years later to change his new life for a child he doesn’t know.

If a woman wants a guy to dive into fatherhood, she should tell him right away, not when he starts a new life.

Maybe we don’t have a “legal right” to know. But it’s common sense and respect that we’re made aware if a girl is pregnant cuz of us.


Allie February 24, 2009 at 3:53 pm

He has an attorney and if he is found to be the father he is going to sue her for full custody and spend the next 8 yrs getting to know his son. It is very neglectful to her son to deprive the natural father of being a Daddy from the start of his life. This is obviously money driven. He wasn't good enough to be the father at his birth but now that she is going on welfare he is a DADDY! She is obviously unstable and we are able to give him a non welfare lifestyle. We don't even want her money.


jean April 12, 2013 at 12:13 am

Happened to my husband…a college casual relationship (one sexual encounter); my husband was never told…they were still on college campus for 4 months (they didn’t really speak anymore) and he never knew. Fast-forward after we had been married for 3 years and I was pregnant with our first child, letter comes in mail from Dept. of Human Service notifying my husband of paternity.
Husband admitted to the sexual encounter, but after so much time passed by he didn’t know for sure…took blood test (DNA didn’t exist then) didn’t rule him out. Paternity suit was taken to court and judge dismissed in our favor.
Although 35 years later…our daughter contacted young woman (we told our daughters what happened in case young lady contacted my husband)…well she has been told all of the years by her mother my husband’s name…so we figure she must be his since there is nothing to gain monetarily.
She wants a relationship with our family….my husband has mixed emotions but so do I…we are trying to work through this and is 40 years later.


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