A grieving mum is waging a fight to change the law after she was told her dead partner’s name could not go their baby’s birth certificate without a court order and DNA proof.
Samantha Thomson and the family of her late boyfriend Matt Vergo have been left distraught after they discovered they would need to provide the evidence after she went to register Thea’s birth.
The issue has now been raised in Parliament as she faces an expensive legal process, which could run into thousands of pounds, while coping with the grief of losing the man she planned the rest of her life with.
Samantha was seven weeks pregnant back in March when she reached over to Matt in bed one morning and found the EE shop worker cold after he had died in his sleep.
A post mortem examination found he had Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS), with his baby daughter and other members of his family now undergoing tests to ensure they are not at similar risk.
Chef Samantha was left in tears when she was told she will need a court order and possibly DNA proof of his paternity because they were not married, for his name to appear on Thea’s birth certificate issued by registrars.
This is the last thing I can do for Matt.Samantha Thomson
It was initially thought she would just need his death certificate, but was told of the extra steps when she arrived at Durham County Council office in person.
Samantha, who delivered Thea by emergency section in at the University Hospital of North Durham on October 6, said: “This is the last thing I can do for Matt.
“I have got more than enough evidence to support it, the coroner’s report, bills, his birth certificate, passport, photos of us together and his death certificate.
“A DNA test could cost hundreds of pounds, maybe thousands.
“I’ve got a year to get this done and it could take six weeks before the first hearing, otherwise we can’t have her birth certificate changed.
“I accept this is what I have to do, but I’m angry.
“If I can get this for us, I hope I can work to get a change so other people don’t have to and are aware of it.”
Samantha, who was living in Chichester with Matt, moved back to County Durham and settled in Murton to be close to her family after his shock death.
She added: “Thea is the last part of Matt we have.
“His family are devastated and they deserve to see their son’s name on their grand-daughter’s birth certificate.”
Matt’s mother Teresa 60, and dad Jon, 48, are united in their backing of Samantha and have offered to give samples to help in the DNA test.
Teresa said: “Matt’s death was very sudden and he was so looking forward to being a dad.
“We are going to do this for him to get his name on that birth certificate.
“We 100% believe Matt is Thea’s dad, there is no doubt to us at all.”
Samantha’s mum Wendy, 49, said the loss of her husband Thomas, 48, in 2008, had already hit their daughter hard and said she also has anxiety issues.
She along with her partner Kevin Parker, 48, have been supporting Samantha as she settles into motherhood alone.
Wendy said: “I think this is disgraceful, I really do, especially when someone is grieving.
“It really hurts and she also has mental health concerns and she has lost Matt, and now she can’t get his name on the birth certificate.
“There needs to be a change.”
MP BACKS SAMANTHA’S STRUGGLE
Samantha’s case has been taken up by Easington MP Grahame Morris, who has raised the issue in Parliament in a bid to change the rules.
He has also contacted Durham County Council to raise the issue in the hope others will not have to face the same ordeal.
Labour member Mr Morris told the House of Commons: “May we have a debate on amending the process for registering births when a father passes away before the birth of a child?
“A constituent of mine who has a newborn baby is still coming to terms with the unexpected loss of her partner.
“Although the case is uncontentious, the whole family is distressed by the process, which involves DNA tests and applications to the court to seek recognition of the deceased father.
“Does not the Leader of the House think that the process for recognising the deceased father should be simplified, because not everyone can afford the bureaucratic, costly and traumatic process that currently exists?”
Andrea Leadsom replied: “I am sorry to hear about the case of the honorary gentleman’s constituent - that is an absolute tragedy, and I am sure that everyone in the House would want to pass on our great sympathy.
“The honorary gentleman makes an important point.
“I urge him to raise it at the next health questions because I am sure that ministers will be interested in looking at ways of improving and streamlining the process.”
Helen Lynch, the council’s head of legal and democratic services, told the Echo: “We sympathise with Ms Thomson situation and that of other people who may have found themselves in a similar situation.
“However, the procedure for including a deceased father on a birth certificate where parents are unmarried is set out in legislation and requires approval from a court; unfortunately the registrar has no discretion in these cases.”