It’s been 40 years now that I have lived with only one name on my birth certificate– but that will soon be fixed next month. For those who missed the posts from two years ago, I will quickly summarize this soap opera story: my parents met on a cruise ship 40 years ago, and 9 months later I was born out of wedlock. To spare me any pain, I was told growing up that my dad was dead. Funny thing about secrets– most eventually do come out, and after many years of unanswered questions, I finally tracked him down and took a DNA test in March 2011. The story does have a very happy ending, and I suppose I could just leave it at that, but there is something to be said for having it officially recognized– even if it is four decades after the fact!
So, next month I finally have a hearing date in New York, where hopefully a judge will enter an order adding my father’s name to my birth certificate. I can only hope this goes through without any further issues, because honestly I’ve been through enough melodrama to last me a lifetime getting to this point. The funny thing is, as a family law attorney, I can truly appreciate just how far our court system has come in terms of helping single mothers over the last 40 years.
Did you know that DNA testing only became available in the early 70’s and was not used back in my time a standard operating procedure? Unwed moms like my mom were denied certain health coverage and free legal assistance. As a result, my mom had to pay for her own hospital costs and hire a private attorney to help her track down my father for support. Through a series of very unfortunate events, paternity was never established, and for 38 years I just wondered what on Earth happened to cause things to go so seriously wrong in my case? Thankfully, this should not happen in today’s times, where DNA testing is offered at the courthouse as soon as a paternity case is filed, and Child Support Enforcement should be able to assist parents free of charge with obtaining support– even across state lines.
In two weeks, I’ll be doing a tv segment for my show all about the wonderful services the courthouses can provide for citizens, and in the meantime behind the scenes, I will anxiously await my own court order finally granting me the right to add my beloved father to my birth certificate. Everyone now realizes just how much I am daddy’s little girl, but this Father’s Day I’m hoping we can make it official. I guess it is true, better late than never.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.