“Everyone Asks How I Did It” — Low-Income Dad Fulfills Dreams for Son with Center’s Help

“Since I love my child, I’d do anything for him. But even with my love, I needed help. I couldn’t do it on my own.” This is where the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law stepped in to help.

Emilio and his girlfriend thought they had their whole lives before them. Then the unthinkable happened.

At age 25 and seven months pregnant, Emilio’s girlfriend was hospitalized for tuberculosis and fell into a coma. Their baby boy was delivered by C-section a week later. Tragically, Emilio’s girlfriend died the following week, never waking from the coma.

Since the couple was not married, Emilio could not be named the father on the baby’s birth certificate. And because Emilio’s girlfriend died before regaining consciousness, she was not able to sign a voluntary declaration of paternity at the hospital.

Emilio was able to take his son home after DNA tests confirmed paternity. He got help caring for the baby from his brother and his pastor’s wife, and found a steady childcare provider to look after his son while he works full time as a baker in a panaderia.

But he was very worried and felt his son was not his. Without money and not knowing where to turn, Emilio sought help at the county hall of records, and then at the county courthouse, where he learned about the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law.

Harriett Buhai Center volunteer attorney, Dena Kravitz, and volunteer paralegal, Cathie Enriquez, both of Harris Ginsberg LLP, worked with him to complete and file the necessary forms to establish paternity, secure legal custody, and have his name added to the birth certificate.

“Everyone asks me how I did it. It was a lot of work going back and forth to court and it took a long time,” says Emilio, who is 31, a native Spanish speaker from Guatemala with a 1st grade education. “But I tell them I’m very, very grateful. I thank God for the work the Center, Dena and Cathie did for me.”

With parentage established, he looks forward to enrolling his son in school when the time comes.

“I want my son to be able to get an education that I don’t have, and also to be fluent in English,” he says.