When paternity fraud is committed, it isn’t just the non-biological father who suffers.
Paternity fraud is an act that leaves a throng of victims in its wake – from the real biological father who has been denied the right to know and raise his child to the child itself who has been lied to every day since birth to the extended family of all parties involved who have also been victims of daily deception.
This was the overarching point of a recent op-ed by Diane Dimond titled, “Duped ‘Dads’ Aren’t the Only Ones Hurt by Paternity Fraud.”
We’ve seen countless times how easy it is for a mother to commit paternity fraud. That’s because the legal system is determined to find someone to provide support for the child so the state won’t have to. It isn’t so much concerned with whether or not the “father” giving that support is the biological dad or not.
Take the recent case of Carnell Alexander – the Michigan man who was held responsible for $30,000 of missed child support payments for a child that DNA tests prove isn’t his.
To recount Alexander’s predicament, in the late 1980s an ex-girlfriend listed him as the father of her child in order to receive welfare benefits. She didn’t realize that by doing so she opened up a paternity case against Alexander.
In 1991, Alexander was pulled over and informed that there was a warrant out for his arrest for the missed payments. Alexander, who was never served notice about the money he owed because it was sent while he was incarcerated, was eventually able to track the woman down for a DNA test to prove he wasn’t the father and even got the woman to admit as much.
The judge still didn’t care and ordered Alexander to pay back the support.
There are numerous ways in which paternity fraud can be committed. Once a father signs a paternity acknowledgement form and the statute of limitations for paternity expires (the time limits vary by state), he is required to provide support for the child until the age of 18 even if it later turns out the child isn’t his.
A mother can also easily commit paternity fraud when applying for welfare. She simply needs to list a “father’s” name and last known address. She could provide a fake address so that when the man will not be notified and won’t be able to show up to court. In that case, a default judgement is handed down and he is on the hook for child support.
While it is staggeringly easy to commit paternity fraud, proving you are the victim is extremely difficult. Many states have even declared that DNA tests alone aren’t enough to vacate a paternity order.
Proving fraud requires proving that the mother knew you were not the father, that she told you that you weren’t the father and that you signed the acknowledgement based on her statement. Gathering all of that evidence is a tall task, particularly if the mother is not cooperative.
One of the most aggressive groups working to combat paternity fraud is the non-profit organization Women Against Paternity Fraud. The group is calling for a federal law declaring that no paternity finding is final until a DNA test proves the identity of the biological father.
Dianna Thompson, president of the WAPF, has gone as far to call the problem “a national epidemic.”
It is difficult to measure how widespread this issue is because, as the National Parents Organization blog points out, no systematic efforts have ever been made to do so.
Studies attempting to show the percentage of men in divorce cases who challenge paternity who turn out not to be the father have turned up figures ranging from 25% to 30%.
Even if you take a conservative estimate, there is likely somewhere between 5.3 million and 7.7 million minor children who have been victims of paternity fraud in the U.S.
If you have any doubt whether you are actually the biological father or your child, you should proceed with extreme caution when acknowledging paternity and first obtain a DNA test. Should you find yourself the victim of paternity fraud, it is important to immediately consult with a licensed family law attorney in your area to discuss what options of recourse you have.