Changing The Birth Certificate

Today we started the process of changing our son’s birth certificate. The HSE received our documentation over four months ago. It is only when calling them to gauge our application’s process that they inform us they could not proceed with our application until my husband’s name was removed from my son’s birth certificate. During the pregnancy we had committed to raising our son together regardless of his genetic origins so we named my husband as his father on the birth certificate and considered all to be well. According to Irish law, “biological” father and “parent” share the same definition, and although many families would argue otherwise my husband’s name on the certificate is not legally valid. The surname must be changed from double barrel to my surname only. His father’s details will be left blank.

For the application to change his birth certificate we need a DNA test. We have endured the heartbreak of two tests already, but because they home tests and not court admissible they cannot be used for our application. The particular type of test that we need costs 500euro and that excludes the doctor’s fee to take the samples. We also have each sign a statutory declaration that states the original birth certificate is incorrect. This step includes another trip to the solicitor’s office. Step parent adoption is “free”, but with many hidden costs.

When I had to sign the declaration that states my son’s birth certificate is wrong and that my husband is “not the father”, I was livid. Throughout the forms, they do not differentiate between a biological parent and a parent that actively raises the child. This man watched my son arrive into the world and hasn’t left his side since. He is not worthy of a term other than “not the father”, however. I had to shove down every instinct I had to tear up the piece of paper.

Instead, I wrote this:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please find enclosed all required documentation for the change to my son’s birth certificate as required for our stepparent adoption application.

I would like to suggest that the term “biological” or “genetic” be used when referring to the father’s name on the birth certificate. Having to state that my husband is “not the father” of my child is incredibly upsetting for the both of us considering that he has acted as my son’s true father from the day he was born.

Having to alter my son’s surname is heart breaking because his brother will now have a different surname to him. If our adoption application is unsuccessful, this change is permanent.

There are many ways to have a family and to be a loving parent. Biology and love are not synonymous with one another. Therefore a little sensitivity regarding familial circumstances that don’t fall into the narrow frame of the traditional family unit would be appreciated.

I understand that there is legislative language that is necessary when dealing with birth certificates. These particular terms are outdated, however, considering the shift in society and changes in how families are being defined. These antiquated references have the potential to be damaging and hurtful when parents are trying to undergo the process to changing their child’s birth certificate.

Thank you for your time

 

The Adoption Application Pack

November 2014

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We received our application pack three weeks after attending an information evening on stepparent adoption. To complete our application for stepparent adoption, we needed:

Utility Bills for the last twelve months

Our marriage certificate and all three birth certificates. All originals, which they still have. Our marriage certificate needed to be signed by a commissioner of oaths

Medical forms for both applicants, to be filled out by our family doctor

Local Police Checks

Local Child Protection Checks

Financial Statement, detailing all of our savings, income and weekly/monthly bills.

A letter from our current employer, who also had to be informed of our application

Foreign Police Clearance and Child Protection Checks. Both myself and my husband were born outside the Republic and returned when we were toddlers. Regardless, we had to obtain clearance certificates from countries that we left when we were babies.

A mountain of application forms.

(There are more aspects to the application which luckily didn’t apply to us)

It tooks three weeks of appointments, phone calls and searching to complete all aspects of the application.During my medical, my GP looked at me with confusion while I explained the situation to her. She asked where our child was living. I replied that he was at home with myself and my husband since he birth. She then asked, “Well, what happens if you “fail” to meet the standards in any of these areas, financially or medically?”. The answer is, nothing. As I am the sole guardian of my child, he stays with us.

Every piece of information about our lives was contained in that application. We are being evaluated as if we are adopting a child that is not already living with us since birth. Given how much we have sacrificed to bring our son into the world and care for him, I was livid at having to do a medical to ensure that I was fit enough for the job of being his mother.

When I expressed this anger to close supports, the common reaction was that although frustrating, it was just a blanket policy in place, so that step parents that may not be suitable for adoption are revealed. “Try not to take it personally”. But therein lies the true farce of this process. Huge amounts of time and resources ensuring everyone gets through this exhaustive preliminary stage, and once the paper work is done, only then are they actually looking at the individual situation of the child. Despite what they claim, this is clearly not in the best interest of our son.

We are trying to adopt a child that is already ours. If for some reason the process fails, he is still our child. The stress and energy going into this is utterly pointless.

 

The Information Evening

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Let’s start from the very beginning. Although I doubt the Von Trapp family had to worry about adoption papers.

When I realized that I was pregnant, I was unsure as to who the biological father was. My future husband decided that although there was a possibility that he and the child were not biologically linked, he would be active in raising the child regardless. The other party informed me when I was twelve weeks pregnant that he did not want any involvement in the child’s life, even if he was the biological father. When, at three months old, we confirmed through a DNA test that my husband was not the biological father of my child, we were shocked(an understatement). But the love he had for our child never changed or diminished. We both adored him and had committed to caring for him. The biological father was informed of the DNA test result but never returned contact.

In trying to deal with a surprise baby, a renewed relationship, our first living arrangement and grasping life as young parents it took a long time for us to really consider the implications our situation would have on our family. It wasn’t until my son’s second birthday that I began to research where we stood legally. The law is blurred for unmarried parents, even more so when the father is not biologically linked to the child. Finding so little information specific to our case, we contacted a solicitor. In order to ensure our son’s safety and well being, we had only one available option; step parent adoption.

Luckily we had gotten married earlier that year, otherwise we would not have been eligible to adopt him. We rang the HSE who informed us that in order to apply we had to attend an information evening, which wasn’t for another two months. We had to attend as part of a group, in our local town. We had to put our confidentiality and our son’s confidentiality aside to merely obtain information.

When we arrived, we were bowled over by the task that lay ahead. The forms, the procedures, the social work visits. The fact that stung every couple in the room was that regardless of the biological father’s involvement in the child’s life, he had to be contacted and informed of the adoption. If he was a guardian of the child, he had to give permission. If he wasn’t a guardian, as is our case, he still needed to be notified. He had a right to object and halt proceedings. There were mothers in the room who had had restraining orders in place against their former partners because of violence and aggression, but they still needed the biological father’s permission. We asked if we could pick up an adoption application pack. They said that we had to request it in writing.

It was another three weeks before we received the forms that we needed.