Paternity Fraud
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One of the most significant, seldom-mentioned scandals in society concerns paternity fraud.  Somewhere between 10% and 30% of children born in the U.S., and perhaps all of the Western world, are not the biological progeny of the presumed father.  Paternity fraud is a disservice not only to alleged fathers, but also to the children involved.

A study by the American Association of Blood Banks found that “the overall exclusion rate [of paternity on tested men] for 1999 was 28.2 percent for accredited labs.”  The British Child Support Agency has had to refund hundreds of thousands of pounds in maintenance payments to more than 3,000 men after DNA tests revealed that they had been wrongly named by mothers in paternity suits.  One in six men who took a DNA test to challenge claims by women that they were the fathers of their children were cleared by the results, according to official figures disclosed by the agency. These figures are undoubtedly higher than what would be found in a random sample of the general population, as men who request tests already have reason to question paternity.  No one knows the real number.

The “Lord Mansfield” rule, applicable in most states proclaims (in effect) that every child born to a married woman is fathered by her husband.  Therefore he must support that child in event of divorce.  Countless of us men have thusly been ordered to pay child support for children probably or demonstrably not ours.

Carnell Smith of Atlanta Georgia was fraudulently led to believe he was father of his then-girlfriend’s child.  He supported this child emotionally and financially for eleven years until a DNA test proved he was not the father.  Smith appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  On June 10, 2002, those worthies announced refusal to hear the case, demonstrating typical judicial indifference to the rights of men (more on Smith in Part III).  More recently, a Missouri Appellate court ruled that Richard Carter of Kansas City, proven not to be the father of a 13-year-old, must pay support anyway.  In late November ‘05 an appeals court upheld the Florida decision rejecting Richard Parker’s claim for relief from child support after a DNA test proved the child he supported for 7 years was not his. Gulf War veteran Taron James, with the help of NCFM attorney Marc Angelucci, has been fighting a paternity fraud case in California regarding a child proven to be not his.

In Australia Liam Magill’s unfaithful ex-wife, Meredith, falsely claimed two of their three children were his.  Magill sued, and was awarded $70,000 in damages and costs by the Victorian County Court in November 2002.  With strong financial backing from Australian Feminists, Mrs. Magill appealed the decision and won, obtaining a settlement of $40,000 from Liam.  Justice Frank Callaway sophisized that there was no evidence on which the County Court judge could find Mrs. Magill intended her husband to rely on the birth certificates to establish his paternity.  That judge needs to go lighter on the acid.

Decades ago, a New York court ruled that a Hauppauge man is legally responsible for at least one of the four children his wife conceived while he was serving 9 1/2 years in state prison for a robbery conviction.  The man sued for divorce from his wife on the ground of adultery, but the court denied the divorce, saying that the evidence that he had been in jail all the while and according to prison officials had never been visited by his wife “did not rule out the many possibilities of access.”  In other words, he did not prove that his wife had not managed, somehow, to get into the jail, so there was still a possibility that the children were his.  During his confinement, he said he kept getting news of his wife’s pregnancies.  “Right along, I was finding out.  Then her mother wrote and told me — while I was in prison.”  He tried to file for divorce while in prison, but regulations prevented him from doing so.  After his parole in April 1972, he was denied Legal Aid assistance.  Two lawyers, who felt sorry for him, agreed to take his case pro bono.  Because of a five year statute of limitations on adultery, the first three births could not be counted as valid grounds.  That left the last birth in 1971 to be contested.  Despite letters submitted by the warden to the court that the wife never visited the man during his entire confinement, the divorce was denied in a May 13th decision.  The wife did not appear at the hearing to oppose the divorce.  By telephone, the wife, now living in North Carolina, admitted that while her husband was in prison, she “did have kids — they’re going in his name, but they’re not his.”

Reform proposals cause political demagogues to wring their hands.  Democrat Senator Sheila Kuehl from the 23rd District of California told that state’s Senate Judiciary committee she supports laws that force falsely-identified men to pay alimony/support, based on past practices and “best interest of the child.”  Demonstrating bipartisanship, state Senator Steve Johnson (R. CO) sponsored a bill, now law in that state, that forbids the use of DNA testing XE "DNA testing"  after a separation or divorce has been filed.

Despite clear wording of the U.S. Constitution to the contrary, 42 U.S.C. section 666(a)(5)(I) mandates that states deny jury trials in paternity actions.  Failure to so violate the Constitution would make a state ineligible for the federal dole in TANF block grants by the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE).  Attorney Tom James informs me that the website of the Legal Services of North Dakota contains the following statement, “There is no right to a jury trial for paternity cases in North Dakota.”

Mr. James also pointed out the consequences of signing a Recognition of Paternity form (ROP).  For example, a man who signs a ROP gives up the right to challenge paternity and demand blood tests, the right to an attorney, and so on.  In return, he gains the right to start paying child support.  The state will file a lawsuit to get him to start paying child support retroactive to the day the child was born.  The state is not legally permitted to ask the court to enforce his right of access to the child however.  That right will not begin unless and until the father rounds up enough money to hire a private attorney, file a lawsuit and persuade a judge that it would be safe to let him see the child.  Meanwhile, the very same government funds public service ads urging unwed fathers to maintain strong relationships with their children.

A not-so-funny joke that circulated around the Internet follows:

Today is my daughter’s 18th birthday.  I’m so glad that this is my last child support payment.  Month after month, year after year, those payments!  I called my baby girl to come over to my house, and when she got here, I said to her, “Baby girl, I want you to take this last check over to your momma’s house; you tell her that this is the last check she’s ever going to get from me, then I want you to come back here and tell me the expression she had on her face.”  So my baby girl took the check over to her.  I was so anxious to hear what the witch had to say and what she looked like.  As my baby girl walked though the door, I said, “Well now ... what did your momma have to say?”  “She told me to tell you that you ain’t my daddy.”

On a brighter note, Illinois, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio and other states have enacted legislation that allows putative fathers adequate time and judicial flexibility in challenging paternity findings.


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Last modified: October 12, 2013