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Birth Certificates Are Not Set in Stone - High Court Paternity Declaration

The fathers of those who are given up for adoption as babies are often not identified on their birth certificates and that can be a painful barrier to their formation of cultural and family identities in later life. As a High Court ruling showed, however, there is a great deal that the law can do to help them.

The case concerned a woman in her 40s who was born in Portsmouth. Her mother was 18 when she gave birth to her and her father was a Royal Navy engineer who was born in Jamaica. Her father played no part in raising her and her mother was physically, emotionally and financially unable to cope alone. She was seven months old when she was given up for adoption.

She was aged 19 when her father contacted social services, asking to have contact with her. Their relationship started with exchanges of letters and photographs, but face-to-face contact led to the blossoming of a loving father-daughter bond. He fully accepted her as his child, and she was comfortably integrated into his family in Jamaica. His name, however, remained absent from her birth certificate.

Some years after his death, she sought a court order formally recognising him as her father. Her eventual aim was to have her birth certificate amended so as to officially confirm his paternity. Putting the record straight, she said, would benefit her and her two children in that it would establish their Jamaican heritage and ancestry. It would also ease her path to obtaining Jamaican citizenship.

Granting a declaration of parentage under Section 55A of the Family Law Act 1986, the Court noted that DNA testing of her father's other biological children confirmed that they were her half-siblings to a 99.9375 per cent degree of probability. In the light of that and other evidence, the Court was satisfied to the point of being sure that she had correctly identified her father.

The Court did not itself have the power to amend her birth certificate to include her father's name. It directed, however, that the Registrar General for Births and Deaths be informed of its decision. Given the declaration of parentage, the relevant amendment should follow without difficulty.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.