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Home > Child Custody & Divorce > Article

Testimony of Greg Swann Before the Domestic Relations Reform
Study Subcommittee of the Arizona State Legislature, 12/14/95

Seven years ago today, I became a father. My daughter, Meredith Katherine Swann, was born on December 14th, 1988. I remember her first moments vividly. She was four weeks early and a bit small. Her birth took longer than it might have and she was born a little blue. The nurses had to blow oxygen at her face to bring her around and bathe her in hot lights to raise her temperature. She squawked at full voice, like a cat underfoot, and I loved her so much it made me cry. A few hours later, I bought a tiny stuffed bear with a rattle in its belly. It wore a pink ribbon that read, "It's A Girl!" Meredith still has that little bear. She keeps it on her bed. I like to look at it now and then, to remind me of one of the happiest days of my life.

I am here before you today to fight for that day and for every day that came after it.

Because of a brutal irony in Arizona statute and case law, my fatherhood of my daughter has been denied. I was there for her from the very beginning, long before the happy day of her birth. I cooked for my wife and cleaned up the messes of her prolonged morning sickness. I went to obstetric appointments and child birthing classes and hospital tours; I still have sonograms of a very tiny Meredith's very tiny feet. I mopped up the flood when my wife's water broke and, in a state of poorly-concealed terror, drove her to the birthing center.

I treasured Meredith in every way I could. I was the sole source of income for our family, and I worked as hard as I could to make her life pleasant. I fed her and bathed her and cuddled and amused her, and I changed my share of diapers. I taught her as much as I could, taught her how to make the best use of her remarkable mind. I took her with me everywhere I could, and I spent every spare minute I had with her. I helped her learn to talk, to walk, to read, to sing and to dream. And now she is a fine and perfect second-grader, a tireless reader, a grave student of bugs and reptiles, and, I think, a credit to the quality of her parenting.

Surely I have been her father in every way that matters.

But there is one way in which I have not been her father, and under current Arizona law, that one way is held to be paramount: I did not issue the semen that resulted in Meredith's life. I proposed marriage to her mother as soon as she told me she was pregnant, so much did I love the little life within her. It didn't matter to me then that I hadn't spawned that life, and it doesn't matter to me now. One could say I got married for the wrong reasons, but Meredith is what she is because I fought for her life when every other adult in her life wanted to end it. Whatever comes of my court battles, I know that I loved Meredith when no one did.

But it is my court battles that bring me before you. Everything I've done, my years of hard work, my years of tender love, my years of unstinting devotion to my daughter's life count as nothing in the Arizona courts. I am said to be not her father because I failed to ejaculate in her behalf, and a man who did nothing but ejaculate and then cheerfully ignored her for six-and-a-half years is held to be her father, at least for now.

In the real world, in the world outside the courthouse, no one believes this is true, not even the parties making the argument in court. On July 3rd, 1994, my wife said in electronic mail, "No matter what happens in the future, nothing can change that, for Meri, Greg is her father." The man who is held by the state to be Meredith's father replied on July 10th, 1994, saying, "I know that Greg will always be her father, and that she will always need him as her daddy." On November 14th, 1994, my wife said that I have been "a good and loving father who has completely taken responsibility for her, and who has never wavered in that commitment--even when another man might have." And even though people have been known to have a sudden change of heart on the way to the courthouse, as recently as seven weeks ago, my wife wrote to me, "Meri's relationship with you is the primary one."

If we were talking about a disputed claim, a car or a business interest or a property boundary, I suppose I could swallow hard and walk away. But we are talking about my daughter's life, about an attempt to deny her entire history. To rob her not just of the only father she's ever known, but to rob both her and my son Cameron of the only lives they've ever known.

My wife is using the legal position that ejaculation and fatherhood are the same thing as a pretext to attempt to deny my custody of both of my children. For now, she can arbitarily deny any contact between my daughter and I, at her sole discretion, and she is seeking to move my children 2,000 miles away. I didn't believe she would ever do anything like this, and I didn't believe any law worthy of the name would let her. I was wrong twice, and you will never know how deeply I regret having failed my children in this way. I beseech you to help me put things right. The father of a child is the man who raised that child, not the man who spawned the life, and I entreat you to make our laws reflect this simple fact.

Permission is explicitly granted to repost/republish unmodified.


What You Can Do

Write a letter expressing your feelings to:
Domestic Relations Reform Study Subcommittee
of the Arizona State Legislature
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

the on-line magazine for men with families.

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