Q: I recently discovered I have a son. I would like to establish a relationship and be on the birth certificate.
I recently discovered through a DNA test that I have a son. His mother was married at the time to a real jerk of a man but was afraid to get a divorce. She told me she got an abortion and we broke things off. I lived the last 14 years not knowing she went ahead with the birth. My son was born in Maryland and her husband's name went on the birth certificate. I would like to have my name put on the birth certificate instead and have a relationship with my son. How can I make this happen? He needs to know that I didn't abandon him. I spoke to her. Her husband doesn't know that I'm the father and he may oppose any change.
A: You can file a petition to establish paternity. You say you're doing this for your son, but are you are really doing this for yourself? Your son has no idea that you exist or that the man he knows as his father is not his biological father. Have you considered the potential harm and emotional shock and trauma you may cause to this child by suddenly forcing your way--a complete stranger--into his life? What disruption this might have on his current family and home life--would his emotional bond to his current father be destroyed? What will be the reaction of the husband/father? Will it lead to divorce, worse? Are you hoping for that in order to rekindle your relationship with the mother? How will your 14 year old son navigate and respond to this blow-up of his family, home and life, and how will it affect his self-confience and self-worth? 14 is a very volatile and vulnerable age. It could derail his academic performance at the very least. What exactly do you expect to achieve by this? You will not necessarily be granted any immediate visitation or direct contact. He may in fact refuse to have anything to do with you. The best interests of the child will be of utmost importance to the court in any such action. I mention these considerations not to discourage your setting a past wrong right, but to give you pause to think before you jump, and evaluate what is in the best interest of the child and whether your proposed action will further that interest or cause more harm than good. If you do this against the clear wishes of the mother, then I think you will have a very contentious and ugly litigation ahead of you, for all involved. It's a difficult situation, and I am sorry you were lied to so long ago, and you were denied knowing your own son, and he his true father. But I think you need to carefully think this through from the child's perspective before making a decision to act, and you may wish to consult with some professionals in the field as to the best way to proceed if you do proceed so as to minimize the harm.
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