Family and Matrimonial

Judge Opens New Chapter in Woman's Life by Dispelling Dark Family Secret

Dark secrets lurking in your family background are likely to cause you untold pain. As one case showed, however, bringing the truth to light in the safe environment of a family court can draw the sting and bring peace to you and future generations.

The case concerned a middle-aged woman who had, since her teens, lived with the knowledge that the man who was named as her father on her birth certificate – the putative father – was not in fact related to her. She was in truth the offspring of a passionate relationship between her Jewish Orthodox mother, who was then a teenager, and an Irish Catholic father.

When the mother became pregnant amidst the constrained social environment of the 1950s, she feared ostracism by her family and community. Faced with an agonising dilemma, she swiftly found and married the putative father, who agreed to declare his paternity on her child's birth certificate. The daughter only discovered the truth when she was 15, shortly before the unhappy marriage of her mother and putative father ended in divorce.

The reality of her parentage was a source of great shame to her and became a dark secret that was never spoken about within the family. When she was in her 40s, however, she plucked up courage and tracked down her true father on the internet. He immediately acknowledged her as his daughter. He was immensely proud of her and his two other children had since embraced her as their sister. Since his death, his widow had also come to see her as part of her family.

Some years after the putative father's death, the daughter launched proceedings with a view to putting the record straight. Her application was supported by her mother, her half-siblings and her father's widow. Following a hearing, a family judge granted her a declaration of parentage by which the identity of her true father was formally recognised. The decision opened the way for her to seek amendment of her birth certificate accordingly.

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