A Brazilian judge recently presided over one of the most difficult cases of her career – an 18-year-old boy who sued his absent father for emotional abandonment, seeking no financial compensation, only a favorable verdict that would allow him to move on with his life.
Gabriela Jardon, a judge at Brazil’s Federal District Court, recently recounted one of the most emotional experiences of her career, the hearing of an 18-year-old trying to hold his absent father responsible for being completely absent from his life. The experience of growing up without a father apparently had such a traumatizing effect on the young man that as soon as he legally became an adult, he felt he needed to take his father to court and hold him accountable.
Writing in the legal section of Brazilian news site Metropoles, Judge Jardon explains that she went into the courtroom with her mind already made up – you can’t force someone to love you, so there was no way to rule in favor of the plaintiff. The absent father had the expected explanation for his behavior: “Judge, I cannot be forced to love someone. I always took care of him financially, but the rest I never earned and I cannot be forced to give. Period!”
When it was time for the boy to make his case, the judge told the father that he could leave the room, but he insisted on staying. Jardon claims that the boy started crying immediately, and despite being very articulate, he could barely finish a sentence because of the uncontrollable sobbing. He just started listing all the suffering that came from being the orphan of a living parent, all the times his father agreed to come to school meetings but never showed up, the unanswered calls, Sundays spent waiting for him to visit.
The boy, Roberto (fictitious name), claimed that one point his father’s absence from his life became so unbearable that he started calling him to arrange a meeting, pleading with him and downright begging, but to no avail. The man stopped answering his calls, and didn’t even visit him when he became seriously ill.
The judge wrote that she was struck both by the boy’s courage to say all these things to his father’s face, constantly reaffirming that he needed to hear them, but also by the implacable indifference with which the father watched Roberto pour his heart out. There was “no trace of love in his eyes”, Jardon notes.
Roberto said that he eventually had to “kill” his father in order to lead a normal life. He was in college now, had a girlfriend, lots of friends, but he still felt he owed it to himself to bring his father to court and hold him accountable for emotional abandonment. He made the decision despite his mother’s wishes, and didn’t ask for financial compensation, just a guilty verdict that would at least make his father feel guilty for his indifference.
Gabriela Jardon did not disclose her verdict in the case, although the law is pretty clear that as long as the parent fulfilled their financial obligation to the child, they are not in the wrong. She does however write that Roberto’s emotional plea made her rethink the fairness of the law, what it really means to be a father, and a son.
“There is no legal obligation to love, but there are paternal duties, clearly stated in more than one law. Even without love, you have to take care of your children, be there for them, and that means a lot more than paying child support,” Jardon wrote.
This is not the kind of story I usually feature on Oddity Central, but after reading about it the other day, it just seemed like something I had to share with the world. It’s one of those rare cases that makes you think about what it really means to be a parent, and if your responsibility to your children ends with offering the financial support required by the law.