‘88 Finishing Touches : Adoptive Parents Now Have Peace of Mind
For Robert and Pamela (P. J.) Moses of Lake Oswego, Ore., Christmas, 1988, brought peace of mind. On. Dec. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the last challenge to the adoption of their daughter, Katie, 7, in a widely publicized case focusing on the rights of unwed fathers.
“It was a new beginning,” P. J. Moses said. “Everybody felt a relief. There was a lot of settling in as a family, trying to realign everything.”
The Moseses, their adopted son Joshua, 10, and Katie were in Washington when the high court dismissed an appeal by Edward McNamara of La Habra, finding that he had failed to raise a constitutional issue when, in 1981, he challenged a San Diego County ruling denying him custody of his daughter.
The legal battle for Katie, the child conceived during a brief affair between McNamara and a woman he met at a convention in San Diego, began in July, 1981, when the mother placed the infant for adoption without notifying McNamara.
Although he then filed for custody, Katie, at 5 weeks old, was placed by the San Diego County Department of Social Services with the Moseses under a Fostadopt program.
When Katie was 5 months old, the court decided the adoption could proceed without McNamara’s consent in the “best interests” of the child. Although McNamara, a single man, divorced, with two sons, had seen the child only twice, and briefly, he argued in trials and appeals in California courts that he had been denied his fatherly rights.
In April, after the state Supreme Court had refused to review the case, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to do so. Although McNamara argued that he had been denied his constitutional right to “the equal protection of the law,” he had cited different grounds in the lower courts, the justices said.
The case had become became something of a cause celebre for fathers’ rights advocates--he was the first unwed father to reach the Supreme Court with a claim that adoption procedures and the law denied him his role as a father. Had he won, Katie’s adoption, finalized in August, 1987, could have been invalidated, though she had never known another family.
Now, said James Sutherland, the Long Beach attorney for McNamara, “There’s nothing more we can do legally.” He said his client “wants to try to work out visitation with (the Moseses). I don’t know how receptive they’re going to be.”
Said P. J. Moses: “The best thing for the children is not to begin another process like that. They need time to settle down.” If the Moseses later feel visitation is in Katie’s best interests, she added, “We would support her. But it is not something that she asks for or talks about.”