Proving my child’s “father” was “donor” (Part 1)

submitted by Lori
Will you ever have to prove your donor child doesn’t have a father? When I gave birth to my daughter via anonymous donor IUI in 1999, I hoped that the information regarding her father would be left blank on her birth certificate.

I had discussed her paternity with a family lawyer friend during my pregnancy, but she found it impossible to guide me as she had not encountered the issue before. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I strongly felt I did not want her birth certificate to say “unknown” in the space where the father’s name belongs. I was aware of a child whose birth certificate said “unknown” because his mother refused to name the father and I was just not comfortable with that. It sounded too much like labeling her a bastard! So I viewed this as my first legal hurdle in my pioneering adventure of becoming a Choice Mom in Alabama. This ain’t California and I was no single and pregnant Hollywood starlet, so I assumed there would be more legal hurdles in the future too.

When someone came to my hospital room and asked me to fill out information for my new daughter’s birth certificate, I came to the space for the father’s name and wrote “none.” The staffer left my room with the paperwork, only to return a few hours later in distress. She explained that she could not list the father as “none” but that she could submit it to the state with the father information blank. When I received the certificate from the state a few weeks later, the space was indeed blank. I smiled and thought “Great! Mission one accomplished!”

Some five years later, I was having a conversation with my teenage son (from a previous marriage). We were discussing the importance of good high school grades, getting into the best colleges, scholarships, and the state-run pre-paid tuition plan his father and I had in place for him. I was promising him that his father and I would pay for him to attend any college or university of his choice – if he was accepted. If he was accepted to Harvard or Yale, we would somehow pay for it. He was thinking about the University of Hawaii – far from home in paradise – while I’m thinking FASFA grants and bank loans!

Sometime later that year, I was helping my neighbor make an online FASFA application for her child because she didn’t have access to a computer. That’s when I realized that one day, when my Choice Child became a senior in high school, I would most likely be doing the same thing for her. The FASFA application REQUIRES copies of BOTH parents’ recent income tax returns, regardless of marital status, and I started wondering how I was going to talk my way out of that one someday.

That led to other thoughts and reasons of why I might someday need to prove that my daughter didn’t have a father, but a bio-dad. Suppose a wonderful man came into my life and wanted to marry me and adopt my daughter as his own? We would need “a father” to terminate his parental rights to proceed with an adoption.

When my teenage son went on a week-long field trip with his school, written permission-waiving legal liability for the school was required from both parents. My daughter would someday make that same trip. And I knew there would be other occasions but could not imagine what they would be. I knew I needed to do SOMETHING to prove that I was the mother of a wonderful child, who didn’t have a father, on purpose.

I took my daughter’s birth certificate with the blank father information to an attorney who specialized in adoptions. After explaining why I was there, he looked back and forth at me and the birth certificate several times before saying “And I thought surrogacy was complicated.” He understood my possible dilemma, but offered no advice beyond “cross that bridge when you get to it.” But I did not want something to blow up in my face someday because I couldn’t “fix” it fast enough.

So, I took the next step I could think of and made an appointment at the fertility clinic where my daughter was conceived. They frequently inseminated women with anonymous donor sperm. I half seriously considered changing my daughter’s birth certificate to list her donor number. The clinic agreed to give me a copy of my complete fertility clinic medical records. As I was leaving, the woman told me “It’s a good thing you thought to get these records now, because we destroy our records seven years after a woman leaves the care of our clinic.” GULP! Who knew??

When I got home, I studied the 10 to 12 pages of records I had been given. There was the intake paperwork done on my first visit that stated I was there to conceive a child and I was a single woman. The next page detailed my physical exam, lab work, and noted that I was not pregnant at the time. The following page spoke of my selection of the donor I wanted to use, as well as two back-up donors if my first choice was not available or viable. Next was the sheet listing my five IUI attempts, the donor used, what day I was in my cycle, and what type of ovulation predictor had been used. There were also medical notes from the sonar that was done, stating that the size and approximate age of my fetus was consistent with the insemination that had been done on December 3, 1998. And finally, there was a very formal letter from my clinic physician to my regular OB/GYN transferring me back to his practice for maternity care.

Now that I had all this – was it enough?

Mikki’s note: Because Lori has written wonderful details of her story, I’m splitting it into two parts. The second part is here.


  8 comments for “Proving my child’s “father” was “donor” (Part 1)

  1. Cristina
    February 18, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    HI. I happened upon your discussion by searching for Alabama. Very interesting and you do rock for your advanced thinking I had some obstacles to overcome with getting a passport and traveling overseas with everyone wanting a statement of permission from the father. It was interesting, but I stood my ground and folks didn’t know what to do, but just let me do it. Having a blank on the birth certificate was key.

  2. elise
    November 3, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    I am finding this story because I am in a similar situation of unexpectedly landing on welfare. So, yes, it does not matter at all unless you have committed the crime of becoming poor after having a Choice child. Unfortunately, much of my welfare experience is learning that the minute you are on welfare, your rights are considerably different. Added to that, many of the good hearted welfare workers are religious in religions that despite revering a superfamous single mother (that would be the Virgin Mary)do make judgements on those of us who CHOOSE single parenthood. But of course, these judgements are indirect, but very damaging. I am sad to say that I do not have the super savviness of Lori (wow, Lori, you rock!) and unfortunately did use a "known donor". I don’t have any paperwork, but do take my word (that I gave the donor to be anonymous) vey seriously. I am unwilling to name him, and am currently in somewhat of a panic. I will report back if I can, wish us luck!

  3. Tiffany
    September 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this information and thank you to those individuals who followed up with comments about their own blank birth certificates. I guess the next step for me is to talk to my attorney to find out "If the birth certificate is blank, can my partner still adopt my child since there isn’t a father listed to terminate rights?" Any ideas?

  4. Lori
    October 17, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you all for your comments and personal information and perspective you each provided. It is good to hear that my story has encouraged some to be well prepared. It’s great to hear that some of you have reached adulthood with a blank on your birth certificate and encountered no problems. Maybe I’ll never have to prove it again – but just in case, my documents are now scanned to a cd and the originals are in the safety deposit box.

    Thanks for posting!

  5. September 11, 2010 at 8:05 am

    I’m an OB-GYN. I don’t do inseminations but I do perform abortions and the state in which I reside has just passed a restrictive, anti-choice law which requires providers to offer women information on how to pursue child support. This is not bad information to be required to offer them (although I think the requirement that I notify them that "life begins at conception" overreaches!), but it assumes the only reason a woman might end her pregnancy is that the guy is a deadbeat. State help in pursuing deadbeat dads is also a good thing. That, coupled with Lori’s story about being on public assistance, does suggest having a complete record of my own insemination–donor, bank, doctor, dates–would be very prudent. Thanks for this posting.

  6. bk24
    September 6, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    hi there. this situation is a little different from yours, but hope it’s helpful: i know exactly who my biological father is. he helped raise me, took me to ballet lessons, came to see me in school plays, and calls me on the phone once a week now that i’m all grown up and away from home. but when i was born in massachusetts in the 70’s, my parents were not married and as such (according to MA law at the time) my father’s name was not allowed on the birth certificate without a paternity test. my parents found it unnecessary since my father had no intention of contesting his paternity, and the father’s information on my birth certificate is BLANK. i’ve never had a problem filling out student loan paperwork for college (as evidenced by the mountain of student loan debt i’ll likely be paying off until my own children are in college or beyond). never had a problem getting a passport or a job or had any question renting an apartment or getting a background check done. ALSO, since my father confirmed his paternity to a judge many years ago, my mother had no problems collecting child support from him even though he’s not listed on my birth certificate. SO, if it’s similarly blank on your daughter’s BC, i don’t see why there should be any problems at all. if you come from a single parent household, you come from a single parent household. period.

  7. Mikki
    September 2, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I’ve queried five legal specialists in the field of non-traditional family building. Have heard back from one so far who says that certainly any Choice Mom should get an affidavit from her fertility doctor and her sperm bank that she was insemination as a single woman, with no partner involved. It can help considerably if you need it later.

  8. P10
    September 1, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Hi there! I just wanted to say that I’m 38 (and a soon-to-be tryer) and the space for father’s info on my BC is blank. I’ve never had any trouble getting a passport, FAFSA, etc. I was raised by a single mother. I also plan to leave the father’s info blank on my child(ren)’s birth certificates.

    Nobody’s ever treated it like a big deal. Of course, I know your situation may be different. Just thought I’d give a view from the other side! 🙂

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