While the countdown for the fiscal cliff loomed, the top headline going into 2013 was that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are expecting a baby. Aside from the sensationalism of their lives individually and as a couple, her pregnancy overshadowing the fiscal cliff was extreme given that the fiscal cliff directly affects the general public. Nonetheless, the popularity of the story and its underlying consciousness offer a perspective that may indirectly speak to our moral compass or view of success.
Kim and Kanye’s status as celebrities undoubtedly drives the popularity of the story. So what does the law say about unmarried parents? For starters, unmarried parents may be considered a family unit. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the government may not discriminate against households consisting of non-related individuals unless there is a separate compelling interest. The law does not, however, provide rights to such legally non-related individuals even if the relationship severs. Therefore unmarried parents in separate households must manage caretaking within the confines of uncertain child support and welfare systems.
Second, the law aims to provide and protect rights of children despite the parents’ marital status. Such rights include affording out of wedlock children the same protections of children born from married parents. When parents agree on custody and support, the court does not intervene. Otherwise, the presumption is that the natural mother gets custody unless deemed unfit or paternal custody serves the best interests of the child.
But what’s more complicated are lifestyle and child-rearing decisions. Historically, children were considered property of the father and their lifestyle were dictated according to his wishes. For example in 1981, Florida permitted a father to obtain custody of his child after the mother married a black man. While states may no longer make custody decisions solely based on race, courts have adopted the approach that race may be a factor in determining a child’s best interest. Courts may also scrutinize a parent’s religious beliefs when evaluating custody or child rearing.
Now for the consciousness. After Kanye West introduced his “baby mama” at a concert, twitter over-flooded with user’s reactions. Is it a problem that Kim and Kanye’s unborn child made top news? On the one hand, the personal lives of celebrities may balance the harsh realities of life. On the other hand, while balance is important do such stories serve as a good outlet?