Man says ex-wife set him up to father her friend's daughters, with forged birth certificate

Brenda White is disappointed that her ex-husband is denying he's a father.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Brenda White is disappointed that her ex-husband is denying he's a father.

A couple who checked into hospital under fake names to give birth to a "surrogate" baby are at the centre of an extraordinary child support cold case.

Twenty years after their first child was born, the Australian man legally recognised as the father of two girls has gone to the High Court to argue his name was forged on the older child's birth certificate.

Vincent Peter Scarano says he knew nothing of his former wife's arrangement with her best friend to give them the babies they'd always dreamed by checking her into hospital under the name Scarano. He denies he is the biological father of either girl.

But his former wife Brenda, from the Waikato, says it was his idea to keep their conception and birth arrangement a secret, and together they brought up the sisters as their own.

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Yesterday, Brenda hailed a court judgment in her favour, which ruled that unless the birth certificate's authenticity was overturned, he remains liable for more than a decade of child support payments.

"It's not about the money," Brenda said. "If we don't get a dollar it doesn't matter, it's about the the truth."

The couple's battle was laid bare in a High Court decision released this week. Brenda was alleged to have sought her friend Carol White's help, after she and Scarano failed to conceive during several in-vitro fertilisation attempts while they were living in Australia. 

Brenda says she contacted the former school-friends in New Zealand who agreed to have a child for her.

The Whites had a baby who was born on 9 October 1988 in a birthing unit at an Australian hospital. She was named Maria Roseanna Scarano, and taken home to be brought up by Vincent and Brenda Scarano.

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A second child, Alanah Mia Scarano, was born three years later and also informally adopted.

However, Scarano claimed in court his signature was forged on Roseanna Scarano's birth certificate. He was not at the birth, he said.

In an interview, Brenda White disputed this. 

"Scarano actually didn't want the birth parent's name on the birth certificate because he never wanted the girls to know they were adopted.

"It had to be done with his name on it so the girls wouldn't find out." 

She and Scarano paid for the parents to come to Australia for the birth, she said, so no-one would know that they were pregnant.

"He makes out he wasn't their father. He wasn't biologically, but he named Roseanna. His mother is called Rosa Scarano and his mother is Anna Maria so in the Italian way your first child has to be named after the grandparents," White said. 

"So that is why her name is Maria Roseanna."

Brenda White and Scarano's marriage ended in 2001 and she moved back to New Zealand. After the death of her friend Carol, she married the girls' biological father Ken White, and they raised the girls in Morrinsville.

Documents show Scarano has had no contact with Roseanna or Alanah since 2001.

In March 2013, Scarano received a letter from the Australian Tax Office advising that he owed more than $360,000 in child support for Roseanna. By 2014, after penalties and interest, the amount owed leapt to $453,000.

Because of Scarano's medical condition, he is unable to work, the court was told. He is on an invalid's benefit, is frequently hospitalised frequently and says he has no means of paying the debt.

Roseanna and Alanah have retained Scarano as their name although White says it is up to them if they wanted to change it as they are adults now.

According to the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act 1995, a person is legally considered to be a parent of a child if their name is entered in the Register of Births in New Zealand or any similar register overseas.

In declining Scarano's application, High Court Justice Christine Gordon said the objection to child support payments should be dealt with by IRD.

Scarano could not be reached for comment.

 - Sunday Star Times

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