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Man who failed to file adoption papers seeks visitation rights

For divorcing parents in Massachusetts and around the country, a determination of child custody can be the most important aspect of the divorce proceedings. Custody agreements may involve sole physical custody, joint physical custody and visitation rights. Child custody can be complex at times, and other circumstances, such as the legal relationship between the parent and child, can add further dimensions to the custody case.

One man recently discovered just how much the legal relationship with a child can matter during a divorce. The man and his wife were married for approximately one year, and during that time they adopted two children. The wife had begun the adoption process for the first child before they were married, and the second adoption occurred during the marriage. But the husband never filled out the adoption papers for the first child, so the law did not recognize him as the child's father.

When he and his wife divorced, he sought visitation rights for the first child, but a judge denied his request, finding that since the law did not consider him the child's parent, he had no ability to seek visitation.

The man appealed the judge's ruling, arguing that he was emotionally attached to the child and that his last name is listed on the child's birth certificate. He also stated that the marriage ended suddenly and he thought he would have more time to file the necessary adoption paperwork.

During the appeal, a panel of judges did not appear to give the man's arguments much weight. One judge asked the man why the law should operate any differently in his case. According to news sources, the court has not scheduled a date when it would issue an opinion.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "3-year-old adoptee at center of unusual custody fight," Steve Schmadeke, Jan. 29, 2012.

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