Acknowledging paternity in lockdown: hope for mr holmes

Appointments at the child welfare office can be unpleasant. But not during the lockdown – because there are no appointments.

Sperm inquisition by officials in Sherlock Holmes style Photo: agefotostock/imago

"And are you absolutely sure that you are the father?" the gaunt man behind the desk asks a second time. His glasses are just hanging on the tip of his nose and he sounds like Sherlock Holmes. It smells like linoleum floors and administration. His look says, "Speak now or forever hold your peace." Well, not to me, but to the man next to me who is currently trying to secure rights and responsibilities for the 3-pound child in my belly. We are at the youth welfare office for paternity acknowledgment and custody declaration, because we are not married.

On the one hand, this has to be so that the child can have the father’s last name, as I want – but most importantly, it is necessary so that the father can make (medical) decisions should I not be able to after the birth. You never know.

Well, that’s why we’re sitting at this sperm inquisition, and I wonder why the tone is so harsh before briefly weighing whether it would be okay, just for my amusement, to sigh an "Oh, who can be sure …" into the room.

Instead, I inwardly weigh whether it would not have been the better option to quickly give the "yes" in the registry office. "Yes" says the father. Not to me, then, but to Mr Holmes. "Routine. I have to ask this, this is a very serious matter after all," the then states in my direction, avoiding eye contact. He must have felt my gaze boring into his temple.

No one knows what

That was in the summer of 2017 and is filed in my folder for most unpleasant encounters with officials directly behind a whole pack of warrantless ID checks by the Vienna police. I never thought I would wish for the gaunt Mr Holmes back one day. But: here we are. At the moment we are not able to enjoy this for the second child.

The Jugendamt does not certify since December and does not intend to do so as long as the lockdown is in place. Since then we have been put off. But now it is high time. In desperation, I even called the citizen’s telephone. The computer voice told me that I was on hold at position 33, but then it went quite quickly and the very friendly lady on the phone was very clueless. "They don’t tell us anything here, I’m sorry," she says, and I thank her artfully for nothing.

The clerk at the Youth Welfare Office also responded in a very friendly manner to my twelve e-mails. I could make an appointment with a notary public for a fee. Or have the paternity acknowledged after the birth. That’s right. Only last time I checked, I paid taxes and an appointment with a notary is also a contact. And after the birth, I want to do other things than drag the newborn into offices where he might catch it. But well, we keep hoping for Mr Holmes.