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Mamma's baby, Poppa's maybe not: Paternity fraud

 
 
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 05:11 pm
I'm not usually a cut and paster but this is a short article from "Time" magazine....

Quote:
It was the lawyers of ancient Rome who came up with the modern definition of fatherhood: Mater semper certa est; pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant (rough translation: The mother is obvious; the father is the one she was married to when the child was born). The Romans, however, didn't have access to genetic testing. Dylan Davis did. A few months after his divorce in 2000, Davis, 36, a software engineer in Denver, took a DNA test to confirm a nagging suspicion that he was not the biological father of his 6-year-old twins. The negative test results led him to give up partial custody of the boy and girl--"The anger grows and grows, and it just keeps chipping away at your love for those children," he says--and since his ex-wife moved to another state, he has had no contact with the twins. But under Colorado law, he is still required to pay $663 a month in child support. So Davis is lobbying to change the statute so that he and others like him won't be held financially accountable for children who aren't biologically theirs.

Advocates for these so-called duped dads say such men should be treated as victims of fraud and liken the need for paternity-disestablishment amendments to truth-in-lending laws. They point to many an egregious case in which the law's marital presumption of fatherhood has ended up enslaving a divorced dad, like the Michigan man who proved he had not sired his son but was still ordered to send child-support payments directly to the boy's biological father, who was granted custody after the mom moved out of his place and left the kid there. Increasingly, policymakers across the country are turning a sympathetic ear to such complaints. Florida last year joined Georgia and Ohio in allowing a man to walk away from any financial obligations regardless of how many years he may have been acting as a minor's father if he discovers he was deceived into parenthood. Fathers' rights groups in Colorado, Illinois and West Virginia are pushing for similar legislation that would remove or extend existing time limits for challenging paternity.

Spearheading the legislative movement is Carnell Smith, a Georgia engineer who found out shortly after he broke up with his girlfriend that she was pregnant and spent the next 11 years believing he was the girl's father. Then, in 2000, after his visitation time had been cut back around the same time that a court order nearly doubled his monthly child-support payments, he took a test that showed he was not the biological parent. Three years and about $100,000 in child support and legal fees later, Smith, 46, managed to disentangle himself from any responsibilities for the girl, and says he walked out of court "a broke but free man." He successfully lobbied his home state to pass its paternity-fraud law in 2002 and now runs a DNA-testing company. Its slogan: "If the genes don't fit, you must acquit!"

But justice for a disillusioned dad can clash with the best interests of a child raised to think of him as a father. "These cases get cast as the duped dad vs. the scheming wife," says Temple University law professor Theresa Glennon, who has examined the changing legal landscape. "This is really about men deserting children they have been parenting." She points out that severing paternal ties could devastate a child depending on the length and quality of his relationship with the nonbiological father.

Even so, last May the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the state's current law doesn't let a court consider a child's best interests when a father requests DNA testing to determine paternity. And in a sign of the further complications genetic testing may have unleashed, the New Jersey Supreme Court is debating whether a nonbiological father can sue the biological one for $110,000 in child-support reimbursement. The plaintiff in the case didn't learn the truth about the son he had believed to be his own until the kid was 30.

Some legislators, however, are acknowledging that there is more to fatherhood than what can be defined solely by the sharing of a few genes. Oklahoma last year joined several states in adopting a law that limits the time frame for contesting paternity to a few years after the child's birth. Paula Roberts, an attorney at the nonprofit Center for Law and Social Policy who helped craft these measures, argues that such time limits protect both the child and the nonbiological father, should Mom ever try to shut him out or the biological dad suddenly show up wanting to horn in. Meanwhile, activists in Oregon are planning to submit two competing bills this session. Both allow a man to contest paternity within a year of discovering he is not the biological father, but only one forces the courts to consider a child's best interests in every case. The other allows a nonbiological father to get out if he wants to, but if he's the one fighting to maintain parental status, then the court has to consider the child's interests. That's a lot of nuance, but when it comes to determining fatherhood, sometimes an easy answer isn't what's best


The Oklahoma plan makes a lot of sense to me.

What do you think about all of this?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 2,325 • Replies: 52
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 05:18 pm
Whoo hoo, I have mixed feelings, including an automatic instinct against time limits, and a flipside of concern for the child. Will think on it...
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 05:19 pm
I'll add an appreciation for the Roman quote...
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 05:27 pm
Ok, on a quick think, I'm interested in that last mentioned Oregon proposal.

Who or what agency picks up a child's needs, I dunno; one would hope there would be ballast for letting the guy off the hook from a duty to pay.
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 05:55 pm
I had a friend who was in the military stationed for 2 years in Germany, at the end of is tour in Germany his wife (in the US of A) gave birth and filed for divorce; he payed child support for 18 years.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 06:00 pm
The first thing I can think of right now is two little kids who have lost the man who is to them their father.

The second thing I can think of is woudn't it be great if humans had to have shown some minimal level of commonsense and wisdom before nature turned on the "I can have a kid" thingy!



How to be fair to everyone, especially bearing in mind the impact on kids?

Damned if I know!

The Oklahoma thing sounds a civilized sort of way to make a least worse decision.

I personally do not see how a person can just walk away from a kid they have nurtured as their own for years, but I know only too well the kind of emotional poison that can infect people's lives when couples are separating/separated...and I do wonder what role naked biology plays in all this....males of many species go to great lengths to ensure it is their sperm which fertilizes eggs (often with exactly the same result as in humans...ie sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't....females seem to have a strong urge to put their eggs in more than one basket) and the males of many species, including primates, kill the young of any other male if they move in as the new group baby maker.

I aso cannot see that it is in the best interests of anybody if a man is forced to pay for kids in bitterness and hatred, and if he is actually knowingly duped then that is clearly very immoral.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 06:41 pm
I think that if two people are married and agree to have children, then where is the fraud if the husband is not the biological father? He wanted to be with his wife and they both wanted kids, right?

In the case of two people who are not married, it feels a lot more like fraud. I think time limits are fair. What's the point of contesting parenthood after the kids have known only one father for six years?
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 06:55 pm
FreeDuck wrote:
I think that if two people are married and agree to have children, then where is the fraud if the husband is not the biological father? He wanted to be with his wife and they both wanted kids, right?

In the case of two people who are not married, it feels a lot more like fraud. I think time limits are fair. What's the point of contesting parenthood after the kids have known only one father for six years?


Possibly many many thousands of dollars.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 06:58 pm
dyslexia wrote:
I had a friend who was in the military stationed for 2 years in Germany, at the end of is tour in Germany his wife (in the US of A) gave birth and filed for divorce; he payed child support for 18 years.


This is, on the face of it, ridiculous/horrifying.

I grow gladder that dna testing has worked out.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 07:02 pm
ossobuco wrote:
FreeDuck wrote:
I think that if two people are married and agree to have children, then where is the fraud if the husband is not the biological father? He wanted to be with his wife and they both wanted kids, right?

In the case of two people who are not married, it feels a lot more like fraud. I think time limits are fair. What's the point of contesting parenthood after the kids have known only one father for six years?


Possibly many many thousands of dollars.


The personal attachment is worth way, way more than that.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 07:12 pm
Re: Mamma's baby, Poppa's maybe not: Paternity fraud
boomerang wrote:

Quote:
It was the lawyers of ancient Rome who came up with the modern definition of fatherhood: Mater semper certa est; pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant (rough translation: The mother is obvious; the father is the one she was married to when the child was born). The Romans, however, didn't have access to genetic testing. Dylan Davis did. A few months after his divorce in 2000, Davis, 36, a software engineer in Denver, took a DNA test to confirm a nagging suspicion that he was not the biological father of his 6-year-old twins. The negative test results led him to give up partial custody of the boy and girl--"The anger grows and grows, and it just keeps chipping away at your love for those children," he says--and since his ex-wife moved to another state, he has had no contact with the twins. But under Colorado law, he is still required to pay $663 a month in child support. So Davis is lobbying to change the statute so that he and others like him won't be held financially accountable for children who aren't biologically theirs.





Not so sure that emotions are going to yield to either the law, or your logic, no matter however good.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 07:18 pm
Obviously, if such is there.

Someone having to continue paying, since they have been perforce paying before? This stuff can ruin lives of the conscientious duped men.

Obviously the duped dad may have an attachment to the child and want to support her or him. But the law for him doing that?

I'm not unaware that people don't always know who the father is at the time of pregnancy. Let me guess the one with any money or family money gets the call in tight choice time... at least sometimes.

Maybe I'm not mixed on this. Fraud ain't fair.
Glad dna can be tested now.
0 Replies
 
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 08:01 pm
a couple separate. The wife has majority custody. The wife requests child support. The state performs a DNA test as a matter of course.

If he is not the biological father he does'nt have to pay child financial support. If he wishes to he may continue to provide parenting support.

I think its pretty simple
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 09:16 pm
Interesting replies! Thank you all.

My question: shouldn't the name that appears on the birth certificate carry some kind of legal weight?

One thing that really jumped out of the article at me was the notion of a biological father trying to horn in on an established family. He suspects the child is his and demands a test and he turns out to be right. Where does this leave the man who has raised the child?

And what about in adoption? Let's say someone showed up claiming to be Mo's real biological father -- and he could prove it. Would he have a legal claim to Mo?

I think that anger that "chips away" at the love someone has for their child is really anger at the mother. And he has every right to be mad. But putting a price tag on his relationship with his children seems harsh.

The case that Dys cites is a doozy. Did the man ever have any kind of relationship with the child at all or did he just pay and pay? That seems terribly unfair.

This is a really complicated issue.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 09:33 pm
I know I've been sounding off pro so called father, but I get the complications, and can quickswitch to scenarios boomer describes. Dadpad's scenario makes sense now, but is a fairly recent road.
Quite a thicket.

I'm a slogger, though, on nailing the nonbio who thought he might possibly be father, or was, hey, named, or was married to the woman while away for two years - for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars support over decades.

I don't think it's a help that they pinpoint assumed birthdate relative to the last period of the woman. Sometimes that's a few weeks off.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 09:35 pm
The name on the birth certificate is just a name. The person might not even know about it.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 10:02 pm
In this day and age they definately know if they've been named on a birth certificate because they either have to disprove paternity or they have to pay up.

I don't think "unknown" is an option.
0 Replies
 
eoe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 10:11 pm
I don't think a man should be forced to pay for children who are proven not to be his. If he chooses to do so, fine, I've known a few who've "turned their head to the truth", but if he chooses not, that's another unfortunate circumstance that will have to be dealt with, somehow someway. Probably through taxes and govt. programs. oh well.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 10:26 pm
boomerang wrote:
In this day and age they definately know if they've been named on a birth certificate because they either have to disprove paternity or they have to pay up.

I don't think "unknown" is an option.



Really truly? I admit not knowing about this exact day and age.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Feb, 2007 10:40 pm
I get what you're saying, eoe, and in a lot of ways I agree but I also wonder where that leaves us.

What if the mother simply says "No. He has no claim on these children and I don't want him involved in their lives even if he is willing to pay support."

Or...

Could a judge require that a woman accepting these child support payments maintain a residence within X miles of the father?

What if the father wanted to relocate. Would the woman also have to relocate if she wanted the payments continued?

I'm not positive Osso but I do think they're pretty serious about having a father written down on the birth certificate so that the state doesn't end up paying support for the child. Maybe one of the A2K legal minds can fill us in should they show up here.
0 Replies
 
 

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