OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Donnell Teal said from the day she was born, there’s never been any question that he was Lillian’s father.
“The first time I held my daughter in my arms I cried,” he said.
There was one problem: because his [current] wife was married to another man when Lillian was born, his name could not be added to her birth certificate.
Under state law, her now ex-husband was considered the dad, even though a divorce was in the works.
“We went to Vital Statistics to get her birth certificate, and they pulled us into a back room and said that under Oklahoma State law, my current wife’s legally separated husband’s name had to go on my daughter’s birth certificate, regardless of the fact that there was no biological connection between him and her,” said Donnell Teal.
The Teals’ said Oklahoma’s interpretation of the Uniform Parentage Act, a measure that provides a legal framework for establishing parent-child relationships, cost their family peace of mind and required thousands of dollars to rectify.
“This [situation] allowed my ex-husband to get what he wanted in the divorce because he had legal rights over my daughter,” said Meaghan, adding that Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services suggested that she open a child support case against Donnell to force a DNA test.
“There was no reason to do that because I was providing for my child,” said Donnell.
“By law, Oklahoma presumes the spouse is the second parent. That is consistent with other states and is a fundamental part of the Uniform Parentage Act which establishes the uniform legal framework for establishing parent-child relationships,” stated a representative on behalf of the state’s Vital Records Department.
Furthermore, according to the department, if the mom was married at the time of birth or during the 300 days prior to the birth, the spouse’s name is to be entered on the birth certificate. If spouse is not the biological father, then there are two options:
- The spouse can sign a denial of paternity and the biological father can sign an acknowledgement of paternity OR
- A court can order the spouse be removed and the biological father be added to the birth certificate based on a DNA test.
“In today’s world, there are a lot of different types of relationships, some of them self-explanatory, some of them complicated that could produce a child. I think it’s wrong that the state is denying fathers like me rights to our child,” he added.
Donnell said he contacted numerous state representatives to no avail, including Governor Stitt’s office, his local legislators and the state’s Attorney General’s office, who later sent a letter suggesting the couple contact a private attorney ‘to discuss any available remedies’.
KFOR contacted the Attorney General’s office; they said they were unable to step in because of the particulars of this case.
“We had to get the court to step in. I had to sign and acceptance of paternity and the other man [finally] had to sign a denial of paternity,” Donnell said.
“Once the court had established that I was her father, we began petitioning the governors. We petitioned senators and the attorney general, and none of them really want anything to do with it. They seem more inclined to uphold the status quo and the state authority versus the individual rights of parents,” Teal added.
Now, thousands of dollars and years later, Donnell is doling out the only advice for parents in the same situation he knows to give.
“It’s more than just paperwork and more than just money,” he said.
“Stick to your guns and fight for your children. There’s nothing more important.”