How we are parents feel about an unexpected pregnancy often correlates with how old our child is. Is this a high school-age young man, or a son who is in college or potentially older? In general, the announcement of a pregnancy should be received with great joy. But because of age, and the obvious burden that raising a child places upon parents, for parents of a young man, this announcement can also bring sadness and grief.
For the parents (and soon to be grandparents), fatherhood at a very young age was not part of what they hoped and prayed for. Instead, they may have hoped for college, world travel, financial security, and maturity. It is common for parents of young pregnant teens to experience anger, disappointment, or even guilt for having raised a child who could behave in what could be perceived as an irresponsible manner.
Regardless of your reaction or how you feel about it, at this moment, if your son’s girlfriend is pregnant, your son needs you to be there for him. Regardless of whether his behavior was responsible or not, there is now a unborn child to consider. All parents, regardless of age, need the unwavering love of their own parents. This doesn’t mean that the parents have to be in agreement with bad behavior, or enable irresponsible actions. We as parents are free to disagree, and we can still do so while loving the heck out of our kids.
Decisions Have to Be Made Fairly Quickly
Your son will have a decision to make, as the young woman who is pregnant also has a decision to make. Does he want to be a father? Or does he feel that he is too young? Or this is maybe something that he doesn’t know if he wants? Is he really ready?
You need to be there for him and help him make this decision, without making it for him. If you tell him what to do and how to do, your influence on him in the situation could come back and bite you, as your son matures and is able to look back on the situation with clear eyes and experience as his guide.
The decision to support him or to control him at this crossroads could mean the difference between his love and confidence in you as the years go on, or in reconcilable resentment and anger.
For your son, there is little he can do until the mother makes her decision about the pregnancy.
If your son is in high school, or heaven forbid, even younger, the role and involvement of you as parents is obviously going to be greater. However, even as the potential grandparents of an unborn child, the parents of the male contribution to the unborn child have very little influence on what will occur up to the birth of the child.
One of the things that you, your spouse, and your son will have to do upon learning that your son’s girlfriend is pregnant, is to wait upon the girlfriends decision about whether or not she is going to keep the baby. Depending on where she lives, the young woman could make the decision to terminate the pregnancy, give the baby up for adoption, or to keep the baby and raise it.
Your son can do nothing if the young woman decides to terminate the pregnancy. But if she decides that she does not want to raise the baby on her own, she cannot simply give up the baby for adoption without involving your son. In most cases, for an adoption to proceed, the father of the child has to consent.
If the young woman does not want to raise the child, but wants to give up the baby for adoption, your son would have rights to raise that child. In the situation where the mother wanted to give up the baby for adoption over the objections of the biological father, it would probably take the involvement of the court to allow the adoption to proceed. In most cases, adoption agencies seek to get the father’s consent to avoid any issues with the father trying to undo the adoption because it happened without his knowledge or consent.
Adoptive families are also leery of adopting a baby without the father’s consent because they don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, fall in love with the child, and then end up losing the baby back to the biological family.
If she does decide that she wants to give up a child for adoption, and you want to be considered adoptive parents, it is best that you work to try and form a good relationship with her and her family so that you would be on the top of her list of options.
If you want to raise the baby, but your son does not want to be involved (and the mother does not want to raise the child) you may want to consider working with him to get him custody of the child to prevent an adoption to another family from occurring.
I will say this right now, this article should not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions about doing a grandparent adoption or helping your son get custody of the baby after its birth, I recommend that you seek a qualified family law attorney in the state that you live in, because each State’s laws are going to be different.
If your son is under the age of 18, and his girlfriend decides that she wants to keep the baby, your son has the right to be involved in the child’s life, whether or not he and his girlfriend remain romantically involved.
It is hard to say whether it would be best for your son and his girlfriend to remain together to raise the child, especially if their relationship is tumultuous or they engage in unhealthy habits together. In some situations, especially when the relationship involves drugs and alcohol, it may be best for the two parties to split up, and then work out a situation where they can amicably raise the child in their own household separately.
If the child is primarily with one of the parents, it is likely that child support payments will be a part of the situation. Most states do not require that child support actually be paid up (and current) before visitation occurs. I’ve seen a lot of fathers fail to engage in visitation because they didn’t make their support payments, either in the mistaken belief that paying was required or because the mother told him he had to pay before seeing the baby.
Depending upon where you live and your beliefs, you may believe that it is more important for the two young people to commit to being together, and even consider getting married if they are old enough. It will be up to them to decide. Most (but not all) relationships between very young parents do not survive.
Sometimes in the case of young parents, we see that the young men do not assert themselves to become the child’s father, and the young mother do not do much to encourage that relationship, or may even prevent him from seeing the baby. There are laws in each state that helped facilitate the father’s relationship with a child if he is the biological father and mother won’t let him see the child.
However, in most states, those rights cannot be asserted until after the child is born. While the child is a fetus and in mom’s belly, father has very little right to force his way into ultrasounds, doctor’s appointments, or even potentially into the delivery room. In most cases, it is better for father if he wants to be involved in all of those things, to try to find a way to work things out with the soon-to-be mother enough so that he can share in those events.
I won’t tell you what he should do, but sometimes compromise is necessary so that he can partake and share in events that cannot be recreated. Once the child is born, and mother restricts father’s access to the child, father can file legal proceedings to establish paternity and custody and a parenting time schedule for himself.
If the parties are older, meaning they are at least 18 years old, much of what I said above still applies. Grandparents, regardless of the age of their children when they get pregnant, do not have legal rights to their grandchild.
Grandparents cannot force their way into having time with the baby if the mother and/or father do not wish it. This can be heartbreaking for Grandparents, especially if this young couple is getting ready to bear their first grandchild ever. Most grandparents, when imagining taking this step, think that they will be able to be closely involved and a resource to their kids. But sometimes that’s just not how it works out or one set of grandparents is preferred over the other. Things can get especially tricky when there have been multiple divorces, and there are many potential grandparents who want to be involved in the child’s life and want to be a part of the birth.
If your son is it over the age of 18, and he is not interested in raising child, he still doesn’t get to choose one way or another whether his pregnant girlfriend can keep or give up or terminate the pregnancy. Just like before, if your son is over the age of 18, he will need to wait and find out what the woman decides to do about the pregnancy.
If she decides to terminate the pregnancy, there’s nothing he can do about it in most cases. Now, if you read the news, this may be changing in certain states, but for the most part, the decision to continue with a pregnancy belongs to the mother. If a woman decides that she does not want to raise the child, father still has the right to step in and raise the child before the child can be adopted away from him. And finally, if the mother decides that she wants to keep the child and raise it, your son and she can make a decision about whether or not they want to do that together or apart.
One area that can be problematic is in a situation where your son is 18 years old and the young woman is younger than 18. Your son is an adult in that situation, even if he is still in high school, but the young woman is of an age where she can consent. In some states, intimate relations with a woman under the age of 18 when the male is older is considered a crime, even if they are only a year or two apart. There may be reasons why a young man would not want to come forward and proclaim that the child is his. I won’t say in this article whether or not it is a good idea to deny paternity in a situation of potential criminal implications. What I will say is that the laws vary in each state, and if there does seem to be potential exposure because of the age of the young prince, I suggest that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction.
Whatever your son decides, and whatever his pregnant girlfriend decides, he needs you. No matter how old he is, he is still your child, and he still needs the reassurance that you are there for him and you love him no matter what.
Before you go, check out these other articles from our wonderful Mom Advice Line community:
- I Want To Adopt But I’m Scared
- My Teenager Daughter Is Pregnant–What Are My Rights?
- Is It Possible To Nurse An Adopted Baby?
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, ages 8, 6, and 3. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Emily is a full-time mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the screen when the kids are occupied. She can be reached through the Contact Us page.