To the relief of a Loxahatchee man who is fighting for the right to help raise his biological son, he and his attorney won’t have to pay the nearly $50,000 his former girlfriend racked up in legal bills successfully battling his efforts.
In an order on Monday, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Karen Miller said the lawsuit filed by attorney Rebekah Brown-Wiseman to help Christopher Farrell get partial custody of his now 17-month-old son wasn’t frivolous or malicious.
“Rather, the claims involved matters of significant personal importance to all of the parties … and/or to make a good faith argument for a change of existing law and the establishment of new law governing the paternity of children born in wedlock,” she wrote.
She previously ruled that as a “sperm donor” Farrell had no right to have any contact with his son. But, she said, he shouldn’t be financially punished for trying to challenge long-established case law that prohibits biological fathers from having relationships with children who are born to women who are married to someone else.
The only way a biological father can help raise such a child is if the mother allows it. In Farrell’s case, his former girlfriend reunited with her husband after she got pregnant with Farrell’s child. While both she and her husband acknowledge Farrell is the child’s biological father, they have blocked his efforts to have any contact with the infant.
Brown-Wiseman unsuccessfully argued that times have changed since 1993 when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a child’s right to legitimacy is more important than a biological father’s right to raise the child. With single parents, divorced parents, step-parents, gay parents and all manner of individuals and couples raising children, it’s time to recognize the rights of biological fathers, she said.
But, the judge said, she is bound by the law which dictates that biological fathers have no rights to children born to “intact marriages.”
Brown-Wiseman said it would have been financially crippling to both her and Farrell if Miller had forced them to pay the former girlfriend’s legal bills. As it is, she said, Farrell is becoming increasingly demoralized. He is losing hope he will ever be able to help raise his son, she said.
Miller’s decision, denying him that right, has been appealed to the 4th District Court of Appeal, she said. A similar case out of Broward County is under consideration by the West Palm Beach-based appeals court.
Brown-Wiseman said she is hopeful the law will be changed. But, she said, time is of the essence. As Farrell’s son gets older it will become more difficult to build a relationship with him, she said.