Christopher Emanuel met his white girlfriend at work, and after asking for her phone number a few times, he was eventually successful. According to a story by Kevin Noble Maillard at The Atlantic, what happened next was pretty straight forward. Friendship led to a relationship and that relationship eventually resulted in a beautiful baby girl.
This may’ve been a fairytale ending except for the fact that the girl’s parents were out of town for the summer during much of the pregnancy, and when they returned home, wanted nothing to do with their daughter’s half “n*****” baby.
Emanuel, 25, says when he and his girlfriend learned that she was pregnant, they made a doctor’s appointment and began planning a family. All of those dreams ended when the woman’s mother came home and learned from neighbors about her daughter’s pregnancy.
“You’re pregnant by a n*****. You should be ashamed of yourself,” the mother told her daughter, who then called Emanuel crying. Even though Emanuel’s girlfriend promised she would give the child to him before giving it up for adoption, Emanuel later learned that she’d lied. She was planning on giving away his daughter and, thanks to the law, Emanuel’s life would be thrown into a tailspin.
Even though Emanuel’s girlfriend texted him and exchanged “I love yous” with him regularly, he would soon learn what was being planned behind his back:
The next day, on Saturday, February 22, a private investigator showed up at Emanuel’s home and served him with notice papers. “An adoption proceeding was filed in Greenville County on February 19, 2014, and you are the putative father of a Caucasian/African-American female child born at Aiken Hospital on February 11, 2014,” the papers stated. His daughter had been born the day after the ice storm. The notice did not give any specifics about the adoption—he didn’t know who had his daughter, or where they were. Just the day before, his girlfriend had texted, “The baby is still in my belly.”
While the child’s mother was steadily telling Emanuel that she was still pregnant and he would see his child, it turns out she’d already selected adoptive parents and was moving to have the child taken away from him.
Emanuel filed an objection to the adoption:
“I am contesting the adoption proceedings … my girlfriend said she had not dilated and would be induced … we talked on a daily basis … she advised me the baby was in her stomach … a private investigator served a summons paper … I was unaware of the proceedings.” Still, his daughter Skylar’s out of state adoption was approved. Skylar’s mother had told the adoptive couple that she was unable to parent the child and that the adoptive father wasn’t around.
After months of fighting and hiring an attorney, Emanuel was finally able to use text messages to prove that he had been deeply invested in his child’s life. Even then though, Skylar’s mother fought Emanuel, telling the court that he hadn’t supported her. Emanuel pointed out that he had contributed money to her doctor’s care and provided financial statements that verified his stability. Emanuel won his case. But it had been the law that stood in his way, and South Carolina is not the only state with laws that may prevent biological fathers from gaining custody of their own children:
“In Illinois, as in other states, the father’s non-marital status was taken as a sign that he was uninterested in his children and lacked the capacity to care for them on his own,” The Atlantic reports. Also:
“In 1983, another Supreme Court case, Lehr v. Robertson, determined that it’s not biology alone that entitles fathers to rights. In that case, a biological father tried unsuccessfully to block his daughter’s adoption by her stepfather. The Court ruled against the biological father because he had not actively established himself in her life and that his reliance on the biological connection alone was insufficient reason to disrupt the adoption. This ‘biology plus’ doctrine established an ethic of responsibility: Fathers have rights, but only if they are earned.”
A man may immediately and without question bear half the responsibility where child support is concerned, but where adoption is at issue, that’s an uphill battle.