“I have worked and slaved for you, your child, your mother, your servants . . . because I thought myself the father of your child. This is the commonest kind of theft, the most brutal slavery. I have had 17 years of penal servitude and have been innocent.”
~ The Father, August Strindberg
What do you think about men having to pay child support for children who are proven to have been fathered by another man? And what of the women who knowingly defrauded them?
A 1999 study by the American Association of Blood Banks discovered that in 30% of 280,000 blood tests performed to determine paternity, the man tested was not actually the biological father of his children. In addition to blood tests, we now have DNA testing which can prove paternity beyond a shadow of a doubt in most cases.
DNA testing has raised some serious ethical issues and it has led many men to file claims of fraud.
DNA has changed everything when it comes to child support but the courts and states are not catching up quickly. There are men who are definitively not the father but still have to pay child support. Some statistics have the numbers as high as 1.6 million men.
Biological fatherhood isn’t everything of course but what about women who lie and defraud men into believing they are the father for money or to hide a betrayal? Should women be held accountable? They aren’t now. What about the biological fathers, should they be made to pay for their children?
Depending on the state, lawsuits to end child support payments on the grounds of paternity vary.
The NY Times reported the case of one man in 2009 who found out after three years that his daughter was not his. He continued to pay child support but when his wife later married the child’s biological father, he sued to end paternity rights. He lost the case. He loves his child but is paying for “a biologically intact family.” The biological father didn’t show up in court but his ex-wife did and contested it. She won and continued to receive support payments from the man she defrauded.
In another case reported in the same article, a father, Tanner Pruitt, remained silent and continued to pay child support, unwilling to upset the relationship. He is somewhat bitter that the biological father hasn’t had to pay a dime but he eventually sued for custody and won. His daughter now lives with him and learned he is not her biological father. Both decided that he is her father.
Many worry that the state will be forced to pick up the costs of supporting the children if men are allowed to bow out of paternity.
Last year, the Toronto Sun reported a case of a father in Canada who discovered after 16 years of marriage that three of his four children were not his and were sired by three different men. He was ordered to pay child support despite this revelation. The man knew his wife cheated but he didn’t expect the results to be what they were.
If the man acts like the father, he is the father in some states. There is a time limit on how long a man can request a change in payments. Men who suspect they are not the father, need to ask for a DNA test right away.
Georgia passed a law in 2002 that allows courts to terminate child-support obligations of men who can prove they are not the fathers. Maryland allows an unlimited time period for challenging paternity, while the legislatures of other states have considered similar measures. Washington is looking to pass Senate bill 5997 authorizing the termination of all legal responsibilities of a nonparent if genetic testing shows by clear and convincing evidence that a man is not the genetic father of a child.
Andrew Evans of Bremerton was 19 when he was told by his girlfriend that she was pregnant with his child. He later found out he was not the father but still has to pay. He has two biological children and a stepchild to support.
“This system is unjust,” Evans told members of the Washington committee considering the bill. “The current laws have legalized my indentured slavery to this woman.”
According to the CS Monitor, on February 9, 2007, sixteen months after his divorce, Richard Parker discovered his three year old son was not his. He immediately filed a lawsuit claiming fraud by his unfaithful ex-wife. He took his case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida justices ruled 7-0 against him. They said that Parker must continue to pay $1,200 a month in child support because he had missed the one-year post-divorce deadline for filing his lawsuit. His court-ordered payments would total more than $200,000 over 15 years to support another man’s child.
Is it time to change the law?
To add insult to injury, men who are ordered to pay support don’t get the tax exemption in the U.S., the custodial parents do.
And what of the children? The complications for children who find out their father is not only not the father but now doesn’t want to pay child support can be traumatizing.
Men who are sperm donors are now being sued for child support, how fair is that when they have agreements beforehand absolving them of responsibility?
Generally, stepfathers don’t have to pay.
Is this an equitable system? And what of the women who are responsible for nothing? Men in this position have put themselves in harm’s way, does that add to their responsibility?
What do you think?