An Oklahoma dad has told of his distress after a state law saw his wife’s estranged husband named father of his baby daughter on her birth certificate.
Donnell Teal and his girlfriend Meaghan McCraw welcomed their baby Lillian in 2017.
But they were aghast to discover that McCraw’s estranged husband, from whom she had been separated for several years was named as Lillian’s father, because the divorce had not been finalized.
McGraw’s ex, who hasn’t been named, used the birth certificate as leverage to get what he wanted in his divorce, with McGraw and Teal forced to spend thousands to correct the error.
‘The day I held my daughter in my arms I cried,’ Teal told local news channel KFOR.
‘I said, ‘Hey this is my daughter.”
‘The hospital put it on the temporary birth certificate, and the state later said’ ‘No, it’s not, it’s this man’s.”
Donnell Teal is pictured with his daughter Lillian, who was born in 2017. He had to fight to be named as her father on the birth certificate
Meaghan McCraw and Teal – who are now married – spent thousands going through the legal process to remove her ex-husband from Lillian’s birth certificate
The problem arose thanks to the Uniform Parentage Act, which was laid out to confirm family connections.
Rules regarding birth certificates vary slightly, but in most states, both parents voluntarily sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form – usually at the hospital, shortly after birth. If there is any dispute, DNA tests can be ordered.
But in Oklahoma, the Vital Records Department automatically notes the husband as the father, even if the couple are estranged.
A spokesperson for the state’s Vital Records Department defended the existing procedures.
‘By law, Oklahoma presumes the spouse is the second parent,’ the spokesperson told KFOR.
‘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.’
To alter the records, the spouse can sign a denial of paternity and the biological father can sign an acknowledgement of paternity.
If the spouse refuses, a DNA test can be carried out, and a court can order the spouse to be removed from the birth certificate.
McCraw said that the law was antiquated, and gave her estranged husband additional leverage in the midst of their divorce battle.
‘This allowed my ex-husband to get what he wanted in the divorce because he had legal rights over my daughter,’ she said.
McCraw said the existing law gave her estranged husband leverage over her amid their divorce battle, as he was legally named as her daughter’s father
Teal said the existing law is antiquated and not fit for purpose
Teal said Lillian’s birth was one of the happiest days of his life, but he was then caught up in a complex legal battle
Teal said he tried to enlist local representatives to help, and even alerted the office of Republican Governor Kevin Stitt.
The state Attorney General replied to their letter suggesting they hire a lawyer.
Teal said they ended up going to court, and the court forced McCraw’s ex to confirm he was not Lillian’s father.
‘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,’ he said.
‘I think it’s wrong that the state is denying fathers like me rights to our child.’
The couple, who got engaged in 2019 and are now married, eventually won the right to have Teal listed on the birth certificate, but are continuing their campaign to change the law.
‘Once the court had established that I was her father, we began petitioning the governors,’ Teal said.
‘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.’
He said he passionately believed the law, as it stands, is wrong – and he would encourage other parents in similar situations to fight for their rights.
‘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.’