- Richard Wenzel
The NPE Princess and Her Royal Court
A lawsuit is a fruit tree planted in a lawyer’s garden.
- Italian Proverb
I am not an attorney. I view attorneys the same way I view my home’s fire extinguishers: someday I might urgently need one, but until then I prefer they remain out-of-sight, and if I ever use one the aftermath will likely be of something burned down. Yet, I begrudgingly admit that I could use an attorney. Why? I want to file a lawsuit against my biological parents. On what basis? I want to test, in a courtroom, whether a parent(s) is legally obligated to inform their child(ren) about their genetic heritage. I am serious! If a parent(s) knowingly conceals genetic information from a child, or knowingly conceals their genetic doubts, does that child have recourse? Especially once that child reaches adulthood. Yes, I readily admit this world does not need another lawsuit but being lied to for several decades motivates me towards actions I would not normally undertake.
I love my mother and had a strong bond with her, but apparently not strong enough for her to share the truth. Sadly, she died almost 20 years ago. I learned that I am an NPE about a year ago. I recently discovered who my biological father was; I say “was” because he too died more than a decade ago. I do not know the legalities of filing a lawsuit against the deceased, but I am willing to blaze a new trail if necessary.
My mother allowed me to think some other man was my dad - in every sense of the word – for over three, sometimes turbulent decades. She took her knowledge to her grave. This, despite the lifetime of questions, tear-filled pleas, and angry proclamations that I made to her that my dad being my dad was somehow fundamentally flawed. For starters, I look nothing like him!
She always assured me that I was mistaken. Oh, the wasted time, energy, and emotions trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and accept that he was my dad! So many harsh words, and a few physical altercations, might have been avoided by simply knowing the truth.
Again, I am not an attorney, but I understand several legal principles. One is precedent, or the outcome of one legal preceding can impact future cases of a similar nature; if my lawsuit establishes that parents owe the truth to their children, then this could set the standard for future contests. I also understand “standing”, or that the person bringing a lawsuit must have a bona fide stake in the outcome. I do. And I must demonstrate that my mother’s actions caused me harm. Well, will any of these suffice?
- never meeting my biological father
- being forced to believe that my dad was my biological father, despite my intuition - from my earliest childhood memories - that he was not, and having to navigate the resulting anguish
- the lost years when I might have interacted with my recently discovered half-siblings
Those are emotional, difficult-to-quantify harms. This is more objective: as a child, I was diagnosed with kidney disease, which may be genetic (I am still searching for my biological father’s medical records). How might my medical care been different – and perhaps better - with this important knowledge?
Here is a big legal question affecting all NPEs: can we stake a claim to our newly discovered biological parent’s inheritance? If you think that is a silly question, then view this captivating 20-minute video: https://youtu.be/-AsRLLdwviM
I will summarize. Roughly a half-century ago the King of Belgium, yes, I said “King”, got married in what was a nationally celebrated event. He and his wife had several children. Problem was, a few years later another woman gave birth to his daughter. The child’s name is Delphine and she was kept a secret. In her early adulthood, Delphine learned who her biological father was. She attempted to communicate with the King. He fought back, fiercely, and denied her eventual requests for a DNA test. A decades-long battle ensued, which was a national story. What finally got the King to capitulate? Lawyers! Well, technically, court costs, $8,000 for every day he refused a DNA test. He at long last agreed to the test and Delphine was proven to be his daughter. She asked for, and received, royal recognition. She is now a Princess, literally! Her children have royal titles too! And she will share in the considerable financial inheritance the King leaves to his children.
Let me be clear: I do not want money! Indeed, what tally of dollars could adequately compensate for the burdens a life-long secret imposed on me? Besides, my biological parents lived meager financial lives. What I wanted, what Delphine wanted, and what you undoubtedly wanted is priceless: THE TRUTH! That is a reasonable request.
I understand human beings are flawed, nobody is perfect, doing ‘the right thing’ requires courage, and people withholding the truth may have their own sad, hurtful experiences motivating them to hide. But attempting to bury the truth in secrecy, forever, is not an effective solution. Other, more beneficial options exist. In the long run, the truth liberates all of us! If, over the span of decades, a parent is unable to articulate the truth, then court sanctions seem equitable.
If you are involved in an NPE court proceeding, please let me know; I need a good lawyer. And who knows, I might become a Prince.