Here’s a long story from the NYT that is worth reading. I don’t think I’ll even attempt to summarize the facts so you should just go read it. To me the key points to ponder are these:
—Nina Viola Montepagani’s birth certificate (which is from 1952) lists Guiseppe Viola as her father. He was married to her mother when she was born and functioned as a social father from the time of her birth until his death in 1987. Nina and Guiseppe seem to have had a warm and loving relationship.
–Nina Montepagani believes (as far as I can tell) that she was not genetically related to Guiseppe. She asserts she is genetically related to Sebastino Raeli. Raeli is also dead and he left an estate valued at something like $100 million dollars. He willed his estate to a university. Raeli was, as the story puts it, officially childless. Under Italian law a child of his might be able to claim 1/2 of his estate.
—While it is possible that Raeli was genetically related to Nina Montepagani it is also possible that he is not. She declined to participate in genetic testing he requested in 2001. It also seems to be perfectly possible that she was genetically related to Guiseppe Viola, the man listed as her father on her birth certificate, since it seems no genetic testing has been done to either include or exclude him.
–When Montepagani sued in Italy in 2001 to establish her status as Raeli’s daughter, the court dismissed her suit because of the original birth certificate listing Guiseppe Viola as her father. This is why she wants to remove his name from the birth certificate.
I suspect other people might find different facts important, but for me, these seem to be key. And I have to say, I am totally unsympathetic to Montepagani’s efforts to change the birth certificate.
Of course, from my point of view, Guiseppe Viola really was (and I use those words quite consciously) her father. The idea that now you would go back and erase his name frankly offends me, all the moreso since the effort seems driven by the quest for a share of Raeli’s estate.
Even if you put great store in genetic relationships, on what basis would you erase Guiseppe Viola’s name here? There is no real evidence he is not genetically related. There is no real evidence that another man is genetically related. I’m all for flexibility in family law (touted by an expert at the end of the article), but towards what end should flexibility be invoked? A birth certificate with a blank is hardly more accurate than the existing one–at least, we cannot say it is more accurate.
It seems the only reason to change the birth certificate is so that Montepagni can go to Italy and try to prove she was genetically related to Raeli so that she can claim a share of his estate. This raises another question bothering me: What would she have to show in order to collect 1/2 of Raeli’s estate? Would it be enough to show genetic connection alone? Should it be? Frankly, it makes no sense to me that she’d be entitled to 1/2 of his estate on the basis of a genetic test. But then you all know I’m not fan of genetics.
I understand that some people will say she ought to be able to find out the truth of her genetic origins. I don’t think I need to disagree with that. Perhaps this is extremely important to her. But she could very likely do this (or have done it in the past) without trying to change her birth certificate. What’s required is genetic testing. If the tests showed that Viola was not genetically related to her, we could still argue about whether or not to change the birth certificate. If tests showed she was related to Raeli, we could argue about whether or not she should get his estate.
For the moment I see no reason why Viola’s name should be removed from the birth certificate.