The New Jersey family courts strive to protect an individual's parental rights except in the most extreme circumstances. Even if a parent has a “questionable” history, or has made numerous bad parenting choices, the courts rarely take away a parent's right to have some level of involvement in his or her child's life. Parental rights, however, generally pertain to a child who has already been born. Because a child is considered a part of the mother's body while still in utero, the courts typically refrain from intervening on the father's behalf, since it's likely to result in a violation of the mother's privacy rights. This interpretation of the law was established in Roe v. Wade, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a woman's right to ultimately control what happens to her body.
The ruling in Roe v. Wade was the basis of Judge Sohail Mohammed's decision in the 2013 case of Plotnick v. Delucca. The two parties were unmarried, but had been engaged until some time during Ms. Delucca's pregnancy. Mr. Plotnick still wished to be in the delivery room to witness the child's birth, to be listed as the child's father and for the child to bear his last name. He filed an emergent application citing these requests, including the right to be notified when Ms. Delucca went into labor. Ms. Delucca opposed that request, stating that being forced into letting Mr. Plotnick into the delivery room was a violation of her privacy rights.
Judge Mohammed agreed with the defendant, citing the preponderance of legal precedence pertaining to a mother's rights while the child was in utero. As for his request to be listed on the birth certificate and have the child bear his last name, Judge Mohammed referred to the NJ Supreme Court case of In re T.J.S., which affirmed that the courts could not establish a “pre-birth” order for a parent's name to be listed on the birth certificate. Under this ruling, Judge Mohammed also felt it was inappropriate for the courts to issue an order for the child's last name. The judge furthermore cited the New Jersey Parentage Act, which gives parents and hospitals up to five days after the birth to file a certificate. Thus, issuing any pre-birth court order prior to the child's birth would be a violation of the current state laws.
The judge did commend Mr. Plotnick on his desire to be involved in his child's life -- a right which he would have, were the child already born. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “It is an inescapable biological fact that state regulation with respect to the child a woman is carrying will have a far greater impact on the mother's liberty than on the father's.” Hence, greater consideration must be given to the mother's interests during the pregnancy, although both parents have equal rights to custody and parenting time once the child is born.