A putative father has no right to be notified that the expectant mother is in labor nor to be present in the delivery room if the mother objects, a New Jersey Judge says in an apparent case of first impression nationwide.

Ruling in a dispute between estranged, unmarried parents, Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed held that a woman’s right to privacy and to control her body during pregnancy allows her to shut the father out.

“A finding in favor of plaintiff for both notification and forced entry into the delivery room would in fact be inconsistent with existing jurisprudence on the interests of women in the children they carry pre-birth,” he wrote in Plotnick v. DeLuccia.

“It would create practical concerns where the father’s unwelcomed presence could cause additional stress on the mother and the child. Moreover, such a finding would also lead to a slippery slope where the mother’s interest could be subjugated to that of the father’s.”

Mohammed said in his opinion, published on March 10, that according to his research, “the issues of whether a putative father has a right to be notified when a woman enters labor, and whether a father has a right to be present at the child’s birth over the mother’s objection, has never been litigated in New Jersey or the United States.

Steven Plotnick and Rebecca DeLuccia began a relationship in late 2012. Soon after DeLuccia learned she was pregnant in February 2013, Plotnick proposed marriage and DeLuccia accepted, but their engagement ended by September. They each retained a counsel, who negotiated over Plotnick’s request to be involved in the pregnancy and in the child’s life afterward. In November as the date of delivery neared, Plotnick filed for an order to show cause seeking the right to be notified when DeLuccia went into labor and to be present at delivery, among other relief.

Mohammed, who sits in Passaic County, held a hearing November 19, 2013, in which DeLuccia participated telephonically from the hospital, where she had gone into labor. He denied the relief from the bench. DeLuccia delivered the child later the same day.

Brick says the ruling is significant because there is a dearth of case law on disputes among unmarried parents, even, though such litigation is profilic.

Brian Schwartz, chairman of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Family Law Section, says the decision “clears up the issue for once and for all that the woman gets to make that decision” about who is present when she gives birth, and is a “good opinion” for moms to know they have a safe haven in the hospital.”

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Written by Kecia Clarke