How two families coped with teenage pregnancy

Background

When they were in their mid-forties, Joyce and Robert adopted Crystal. Crystal brought nothing but joy into their lives. Crystal is a great student and has lots of friends. When she started middle school she became very good friends with Alex who lives in their neighborhood. Crystal and Alex walked to and from school and did their homework together everyday. On weekends they went to movies and hung out with friends.

When school was out for Christmas break, 14-year-old Crystal told her parents that she was pregnant. Joyce and Robert were shocked, upset and angry with themselves and with Crystal. Joyce took her to the doctor, where they learned the baby was due in March, and that because of Crystal’s age she was considered high risk. Their 14-year-old daughter was entering the third trimester of pregnancy and they didn’t notice she was pregnant. After tempers cooled, Crystal told them she and Alex loved each other and they wanted to keep their baby. It proved impossible to have a realistic conversation with Crystal. She absolutely would not consider placing her baby for adoption.

Joyce and Robert decided it was time to talk to Alex’s parents, Jill and Roger.

According to Robert, the meeting was very awkward. Jill said there was a misunderstanding; she didn’t believe Alex could be the father of the baby. Roger decided to ask Alex. Alex reluctantly told his parents that he and Crystal were in love and wanted to raise their baby together. The situation was so heated that Joyce and Robert quietly left.

Eventually both families met to discuss what to do. They decided the best course of action would be to meet in mediation.

Dispute

Alex and Crystal want to keep their baby; Crystal’s parents think it is better to place the baby for adoption. They are concerned about Crystal’s future. It would be very difficult to have an infant and still be in junior high. Moreover, they are approaching retirement and are not prepared to raise a baby. Alex’s parents are in their late 30’s; the thought of an infant in their house is not daunting.

Discussion

I met with everyone in my office. After being given the background information I used a white board and encouraged everyone to brainstorm pros and cons of adoption. I then used a separate whiteboard and asked everyone to brainstorm the responsibilities of raising a child. During this process Crystal and Alex came to realize that they don’t have the ability to raise a child; they aren’t even in high school. When it appeared adoption was the only realistic option, everyone became somber. Roger asked if we could brainstorm division of responsibilities for the child, like a parenting plan. I clarified that he was suggesting sharing rights and responsibilities for the baby, as if this were a divorce. Joyce wanted to talk about a schedule. Joyce and Robert would only agree to engage in this discussion if Crystal made some promises about her education. They expect Crystal to finish high school and college. A schedule would have to accommodate this demand. Crystal agreed. They agreed the baby would need to be nursed for at least six months.

Resolution: When the baby is born in March, Crystal will finish 9th grade with online school or home/hospital, which will allow her to be with the baby until she starts high school. Alex and his parents will see the baby frequently. Jill will care for the baby Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. when Crystal goes back to school. The families will pay an equal share of all uninsured medical costs for prenatal care and birth of the baby. They will share all of the child’s expenses. Alex will go to birthing classes with Crystal; their parents will take turns driving them. As the baby grows and develops, the parent time schedule will change to meet the baby’s needs and to accommodate Crystal’s education. If they need help working out future disputes, they will return to mediation.

Mediator Notes

This mediation was heartwarming; the parents acted in the best interest of their children and their grand child.

If you have a dispute you would like me to consider in this column contact me at (801) 994-6000 or at [email protected] . You can also check out my website at: www.krisrogers.com.