Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I live in the United States and I hope you can answer my question. I believe that my father has another child (would be my half-sister). He denies it, but there are certain timeframes, etc, that lead me to believe otherwise. My question is, on this child's birth certificate, would it have been possible for the real biological mother to put a different mother's name? I know you don't have to list the father — I am thinking that my dad's girlfriend gave birth, had HER mother listed as the biological mom, and her mother raised the baby. She was only 15 when she gave birth. If it is not possible to fake the mom's name on the birth certificate, then my suspicion could be proved right or wrong by just obtaining the birth certificate.
If your suspicions are well grounded, I am not surprised that your father denies that he fathered a child with a 15 year old. You see, though the fact of men having children with women other than their wives has long lost societal approbation, it is a criminal act for a man to have sexual relations with an underage girl. The age of consent is 16 and has been so for many years.
Such action would have been known in our law as carnal knowledge (rape of a girl who cannot consent) at the time. In the USA, it is known as statutory rape. In fact, if she gave birth while only 15, it is more than likely that her sexual violation occurred while she was 14 or younger, as she may not have been impregnated immediately. The younger such sexual violation occurred, the more egregious the crime.
Then, of course, you have not intimated how old your father was at the time, because if he was of a similar age to her, the modern and human rights view would be that both would need sexual education and therapy to instil in them sexual responsibility, and that a prison term for such a young male would not have been in his best interests. In fact, if he was under 23 years old and he could satisfy the court that he believed her to be 16 years or over, he would have successfully used a legal defence open to him to a charge of carnal knowledge.
Anyway, you have not stated why you are so determined to find out the paternity of this person whom you suspect to be your half-sister, and you seem to base your suspicions on some “timeframes” and no other specifics. Your suspicions must have been based on something which must have set your senses twitching. I mention this because I hope that you wish to be sure because you wish to have a closer relationship with your possible half-sister, and not otherwise to make her life miserable in some way, or indeed you father's.
Let me try to address your query whether it was possible for the real biological mother to put a different mother's name in the birth records. Firstly, all things are possible; however, such a possibility would involve several persons making false sworn statements, which would mean that several offences would have to be committed, and would leave the persons open to prosecution.
What has generally been reported on matters of this kind at a time when the family had to protect the daughter's reputation, was that she and her mother or aunt would go away and she would have the baby elsewhere and the mother or aunt would return home with 'their' baby.
There is nothing in your letter which suggests any such action having been taken for the birth. This being the case, it becomes even less possible for a passing off to have been successful without dire consequences.
You see, the Registration of (Births and Deaths) Act provides for the report of the birth of a child in a public hospital to be taken there by the Registrar of Births who is stationed therein. If it occurs in a private hospital, then the head/chief administrator has the legal obligation of ensuring that the report of the birth is duly taken in the prescribed forms and submitted to the registrar. The same obligation rests on a midwife when the birth was at a private home and was assisted by such a professional. You must also remember that the legal obligation of reporting the birth of their child is primarily the parents'. So, if by any chance all the above means for some reason did not occasion a report of the birth, then both or either of the parents can make the report in person or by statutory declarations to the Registrar of Births. I suppose this last course of action could be utilised to provide the name of a woman other than the biological mother's when the birth is reported and registered. It would, however, still require the making of false statements on oath which are breaches of the law.
I do not agree with you that the father's name and details do not have to be listed. In fact the prescribed form for reporting the birth has the space, as the mother's, for the name, etcetera, of the father. It is a fact that on a great number of birth certificates the space for the father's name and details is blank, and must be so when there was no information on this given at the report of the birth. Such birth certificate numbers have decreased a great deal following upon the determined efforts of former Registrar General Dr Patricia Holness to have fathers' names and particulars appear on their children's birth certificates. As I took part in this effort, I know for a fact that it was successful.
You have not mentioned why you feel entitled to be investigating the birth of any other person without their consent. Have you talked with the mother or the child to explain to them your interest and the reason for it and ask them whether your suspicions that your father is also the child's father is correct? If you do not have the mother's or the child's consent for you to obtain a copy of the birth certificate, you should not do so as it would be a serious invasion of both the mother's and the child's privacy.
If you really want her to be your sister, then you should speak with them and they may even agree to do a DNA test, and your father would not need to be involved at all, unless he also agrees. In this way you will not breach anyone's rights and everything would be above board. I get the impression that you are an only child and you may therefore wish to have a sibling.
If I am wrong in this, then whatever your reason is, please just stop and go no further. The reason I say this is, if your father is indeed the father of the child and he chose not to acknowledge this, and the mother, since the birth, has done nothing to have his paternity declared, then how is it your business to investigate to clarify your suspicions, when none of them have asked you to do so?
People, even husbands and wives, spouses, mothers and fathers, parents and children, have the right to make decisions about their lives, without any right of others to know about it or seek to find out about it without their consent. No good ever comes of enquiries such as yours. Your father has denied it. My advice is, give him the respect he is due as your father and accept his denials and be at peace.
I wish you the very best.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.