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You Can’t Choose Your Parents

You Can’t Choose Your Parents

That is what a 58-year-old woman in Manhattan recently learned much to her disappointment. The woman had gone to court to get the name of her mother’s husband at the time of her birth removed from her birth certificate. Why would she do this? For two reasons: First, she believed that her mother’s husband was not her biological father. And second, the woman believed that she was the only child of a man in Italy who recently died and who, she claimed, had promised to leave a substantial portion of his estate to her.

The woman first had gone to court in Italy to receive what she viewed as her portion of the deceased Italian’s estate. However, the Italian court said that it would not consider the woman’s claim if her mother’s husband was listed as her father on her birth certificate. Thus, the woman initiated legal proceedings against the New York City Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, to change her birth certificate. But despite the woman’s arguments in New York, the court denied her request to remove the name of her mother’s husband from her birth certificate because “a child born during marriage is presumed to be the biological product of the marriage” is one of the strongest and most persuasive presumptions known to the law.

We all make innumerable decisions in our lives. But in New York, we cannot pick our parents unless we have clear and convincing evidence that it was highly improbable that one or both of the parents on our birth certificate were not party to our conception.

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