What you need to know about paternity fraud

By Erica Christian

In the wake of his recent passing, radio stations across the world are playing the music of Michael Jackson, commemorating his contributions to pop culture.  The next time you find yourself jamming to his hit Billy Jean, I encourage you to pay close attention to the words which describe the situation that is the nightmare many men live today:  Paternity fraud.

Paternity fraud occurs when a woman intentionally names a man to be the father of her child when she knows he is not the biological father, often for the purposes of collecting child support.  Celebrities are certainly not the only men who face paternity fraud.  With the advancement and availability of paternity tests, many men are coming to learn that the children they have paid support for over many years are not their biological child.  The devastating revelation leads to many victims, including the non-biological father, the biological father, the families of both men, and most certainly the innocent child.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Men who later learn they are not the biological father of their child often find themselves without relief.  If you later learn you are the victim of paternity fraud, it is not as easy as submitting the DNA test results to the court to eliminate a child support order. Depending on the jurisdiction, once the deadlines for contesting paternity have passed and the court has ordered terms for support, you may still be obligated to continue to support the child despite the fact that a DNA test has proven you are not the father.  In fact, many states have declared that a DNA test alone is not sufficient to vacate a paternity order.  Family courts are courts of equity and if the biological father is not produced, the courts may completely overlook the victimization and turn to the best interest of the child which is to continue to require you to support the child.

Be sure BEFORE you sign

Hearing the words “I am pregnant,” can ignite a wide variety of feelings in a man.  He may be overjoyed, terrified, or a combination of the two.  For the woman looking to commit paternity fraud, she is hoping that he is filled with the overwhelming sense of responsibility to do the right thing.

In most jurisdictions, genetic testing is not required to establish paternity.  Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) forms are available for fathers to sign at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth.  If the VAP is not rescinded within 60 days, the VAP is a binding determination of paternity.  Thereafter, the acknowledgment may only be challenged in court on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.

The VAP includes various warnings and disclaimers.  It is important that you read the entire document; after all, when you sign the document, you are stating that you read and understood each of the provisions.  The VAP includes a waiver of the right to paternity (DNA) testing.  By signing the VAP, the man is declaring to all, including child support enforcement, that he is the father of the child.  However, the VAP does not establish a father’s parental rights; rather, a father will have to initiate separate custody proceedings to pursue parental or visitation rights.

If you have any doubt in your mind that the child is not yours, you should request a DNA test at the hospital to confirm that you are the father BEFORE you sign the VAP.  Many states have laws regarding DNA tests for minor children which require the court to make a determination whether or not the test is in the best interest of the child.  If you decide to wait until the child is older and the child recognizes you as dad, the court may make a determination that the DNA test is not in the best interest of the child.

Because there are strict guidelines for rescinding the VAP, if you signed a VAP and do not believe you are the father, contact an attorney immediately.

I Never Signed Anything

Perhaps you did not learn that paternity was established until after you start seeing a deduction for child support out of your paycheck.  In some states, paternity can be established by default if the alleged father does not respond to the action which may have been mailed to an address he has not lived at in years.  In this situation, the mom stated in court that he was the father and because he was not there to deny it, the default paternity was ordered.  Additionally, when a child is born during a marriage, most states have a presumption that the husband of the mother is the father of the child.  In each of these cases, the men never had to sign anything stating they were the fathers.  Each state has different guidelines for contesting paternity in default paternity actions and in marital presumption cases.  If you are in this situation, you should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in your state immediately to explore your options.

 

Now what?

If you believe you are not the father of the child and the deadline for contesting paternity has passed, there may still be hope.  The court may vacate a paternity acknowledgement if you prove fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.  The difficulty in proving fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact to vacate the acknowledgment is that the laws and court rulings of each state vary.  As stated previously, a subsequent DNA test may not be sufficient.   If you suspect you are the victim of paternity fraud, you should contact a domestic litigation attorney immediately.

In order to succeed under paternity fraud, you have to prove that the mother committed fraud.  This is not to be confused with a woman who mistakenly names a father who later turns out to not be the father.  The elements of fraud require you to prove that she knew you were not the father, she told you that you were the father, and that you signed the acknowledgment based on her statement.  You will need evidence.  Did she tell you she knew?  Did she write you a letter or email stating she knew?  Did she tell anyone that she knew?  These are just a few of the questions that you will need answered in order to gather evidence to assemble your case for paternity fraud.

In addition to proving that the child is not yours and that the mother committed fraud when naming you as a father, it is important that you also identify and locate the biological father.   The courts are concerned for the financial support of the child; providing the alternative means of support combats the best interest of the child argument.  Depending on your jurisdiction, if the biological father is located, you may also be able to obtain an order of restitution requiring him to reimburse you for the amount you have already paid in support.

The decisions in paternity fraud cases vary greatly from state to state.  Even if you do not believe you have a case for fraud, if you believe you are not the father of a child you have been ordered to pay support for, you should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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30 comments on “What you need to know about paternity fraud

    my son excepted responsibility for a child whom may not be his. He already has signed the voluntary paternity acknowledgement through the state of Wisconsin. Recently he found out x girlfriend had clyamidia a form of std during her first trimester of pregnancy. We are in a court battle now for all child rights to me. We have a gal. I know in Wisconsin she could file a motion to request paternity. AFTER OUR LAST COURT DATE SHE stated she had an emergency and that I should come to her home. She wanted me to take a dna test in which I REFUSED. I believe she wanted to show the court I was not the father as to relinquish all my rights to the child. She wants her mother to have full custody and my son out of the picture. Any suggestion on what to do next?

    Who do i file a complaint with regarding my xwife sighning a acknowlegment of paternity lettera also sumitting a doctors letter saying the kid was incapacitated for life.But in 2010 the kid attended colledge in santa barbra for 4 years then graduated.The child support personel also the courts read the fraudulent letter but had no idea that it was not true.If the kid was mine why would she wait 10 years later to open a child support case.Iam not on the birth certificate he does not have my last name ect…. I ALSO HAVE A LETTER FROM THE CHILD SUPPORT RECORDES DEPT IN RANCHO CORDOVA stating that they have no such aop letter in cal history.So the records dept has nothing at all about me ever sighning any letter but the torrance office is using this fraudulent paper to collect child support.I have been fighting this for 17 years i have all the evidence there is on paper andshe connot have 1 thing because thier is none.Can a child support attorny take on my case wich i can pay weakly but at the end this is a billion dollar lawsuit against a Doctor,Child support,Courts,To much to explain if intrested call michael at 4242649839.thank u

    what are the consequences of the mother that intentionally lied about who the father of her child was because the other man came from a wealthier family or whatever? Please don’t tell me the mother just gets a verbally reprimanded and nothing else is done. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable.

    Hi-I come from no knowledge of what my ex wife was planning on this. We have 10 yrs old boy and I was asked to accept to be a father at the hospital but we were married and this child was conceived through IVF. I am facing more than enough indications now that he is not my child. Recently I requested to my ex to provide DNA sample and she is refusing to provide. We got divorced four years ago and I have been paying support in state of Washington. What might be the best way to move forward in order to find out sheathed this child is mine or not. Your best answer will be appreciated in this regard.

    Thanks

    Hi I have a 5 yr old who I just recently found out another man fathered but me And my husband at the time had his name placed on the birth certificate and we even signed the paternity affidavit. With this done can I get my ex husband taken off and the real father put on? I was sure my husband was the dad but we had DNA done proving otherwise but my husband who is now in prison wants left on the bc even after DNA with the other man proved otherwise. Idk what to do or if I will get in trouble?! The other man was a one night stand I never imagined he could be the dad. We even used protection so i was so sure.

    If you learn anything about this please let me know. I’m in a simialar situation. Where there was a threesome and the other gurl got pregnant. Well hes my soon to be husband is willing to sign an affidavit saying he acknowledged that hes the father. Let’s say in a year or 5 years that someone another man says hes the father. What can happen? Please email me if u can help me. Madcrocs@yahoo.com

    I have a son from a marriage that was over a long time ago. He is now 34 years old. If we take a DNA test and find that he is not my son, can I sue the mother for paternity fraud?
    Can she be made to pay restitution?
    The marriage and divorce happened in Texas. I still live in Texas and she lives in Arizona.

    Hello my name is Michael Zinkiewitz SR.I,am righting this letter to see what i can do about a child born from my xwife at the time.I,am not on the birth certificate i was not even at the hospital because i did not no he was even being born.Well we got divorced in 89 the child was born in 92.Truth to the matter is she filled out the acknowledgment of paternity letter after my daughters boyfriend denied her proposition because he did not want to commit fraud. So is it not only justified that she knew the child was not mine.Why would she ask anyone to fill out the paternity letter if she knew i was the biological father.II sent a request form to the Paternity Opportunity Program there responce was [ IN REGARDS TO YOUR SPECIFIC REQUEST,there is no Declaration of Paternity on filefor the child [STAVROS PATSALOS] in the state of California.It also states that both parents have to sighn the letter.One other issue i have a copy of a letter from a doctor NOVOM stating that the child will remain incapacitated for the rest of his life.Well if that were to be true how would he be able to go to USB colledge for 4 years and then graduate.he is incapacitated according to his doctor so how can he be able to attend any colledge.

    There is a woman, we were friends, she told me she and her boyfriend were going to have a baby. Well a month later the boyfriend went to jail. She stopped coming around, I found out later that she was calling my husband asking him for rides to different places and he ended up sleeping with her one time. She waited a month and the told my husband the baby was his, now he did not tell me that she said he was the father until after the baby was born and he had signed the birth certificate. She called him to the hospital and begged him to sign because they were going to take the baby due to it being born with crack in its system. Now the real father is out of prison and has apologize to us for what the mother has put us through. She will not let the real father see the child but continues to harass my family. Her own mother has told my husband he was not the father and that her daughter had planned this to break up me and my husband. Can my husband’s name be removed from the birth certificate, we live in the state of Florida.

    My now newly deceased husband has been harassed by a ex now for 18 years. We requested dna many times and she refused. We have 7 of our own children who are carbon copies of him. Now he is deceased and wants a dna test. This woman literally pushed him slowly to his death by harassing us all these years. Can I refuse the test? Also, she forged his name in the commonwealth state of pa where he was not even present for the birth he was escorted for telling them to let her die. Years later we finally did a relinquishment of rights and her husband adopted him. She continued to harass us and now he has passed and putting us thru this bs now.

    I didn’t sign the birth certificate when we was together I had two sons with this women and we broke up because I didn’t the birth certificate she trying keeper away from me so when I told u not gonna let me see them Ima hav to get a paternity test so I can go ask for custody An get my parenting time .well I said that to her she got mad some how went had some guy it ain’t his father go put the man it’s not jus biological father on the birth certificate An I’m trying to get a DNA test show she frauded the birth certificate I want to establish paternity of my two boys by my ex never married but was living together when had kids together I also got her under oath of the courts telling the courts these boys is mines .im in Portland Oregon wat can I do get that other man off the birth certificate so I can get DNA test for me An my boys catch her on this fraud how can I proceed get that this situation resolved it’s no child support nothing she added a name on the birth certificate thinking I can’t still get me An my boys tested how do I go about this wats the law in Portland oregon

    Ive been paying for a child 15 years to date. I was incarcerated at the time of being served child support paperwork the mother has denied me a paternity test till 15 years later when she finds out she can still collect child support even though If I find out that the child is not to be mine. Because its not a court ordered test. She allowed me to take test the kid came back not mine now I have a court date set up but don’t know what the outcome would be because I was told by Family Law facilitator that it’s been too long. I never signed birth certificate she had put my name on the birth certificate falsely identifying me as a biological father knowing that she had multiple partners now I’m stuck with somebody else’s kid that I’m paying for until the court date hopefully it gets overturned

    My father took his ex-wife to court back in the 80’s with the help of my mother to prove that his ex-wife forged his name on her son’s birth certificate. His ex the mother of the child admitted in court she forging my fathers name on the child’s birth certificate. My father was no longer ordered to pay for child support on this child. The child at the time is now an adult with children of his own. He and his children have my father’s last name. I also believe this guy is using the original birth certificate to receive tribal benefits my father is entitled to. Can I take him to court and have him change his last name?

    If a woman sees you as being good enough to be put on her child’s birth certificate, it is one of the best compliments you can get as a man–especially if you’re not the biological father. So make the best of it. Be in the kid’s life, help out financially (you might even be able to get tax breaks), and when you get older you never know this child could end up taking care of you.

    Ya until the woman does it in hatred against the biological dad and in missouri there is nothing legally I can do about it

    Would you still consider it a compliment if your one of the three men on three different birth certificates for the same child?

    What about the rights that the biological father should have? It is NOT his fault he was intentionally lied to and then deprived to be involved in his child’s life. I’m confused why it is acceptable for the mother to do this. Do you think the child will ever find out the truth as they get older? Why is money and tax breaks more important than the emotional well-being of the child for their entire life?

    Hey im shawn I stay in Chicago and I have a dna test results stating im not the father over ten years ago got papers to prove it and had to file a motion and now the state attorney saying a sign the certificate when clearly I wasn’t there at she forged my signature now im sacred of the out come because i didnt sign that contract we have no rights nor do they up hold the constitution plz help

    Madison paternity lawyers
    Vicki, I would contact the Cordell & Cordell family law attorneys in Madison to set up an appointment. Because the child was born during the marriage, even if the child is not biologically the husband’s, the child may be considered “born of the marriage” and the husband is the father regardless of who the biological parent is. This is how the law works in some states and may be applicable in Wisconsin. But I would contact a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction first. http://cordellcordell.com/offices/wisconsin/

    question? so what if a child was born in a marriage and husband was not biologically the father, but the biologic father tried to to get involve. would the husband have all rights??

    paternity fraud.
    my husband to be has a 12 year old. we are doing a home test (I know its not going to hold up in court) but sine they were legally married would it still be hard to prove paternity fraud? Any advice on lawyers in Madison wis?

    my son may be the father of a child born in February, but the mother has already signed , saying another is the father. She knew there was a chance my son was the dad. This is fraud? no dna was done and it seems my son is just wiped under the rug as a possible father. I would like to know the truth, but how?

    He says he’s the father but most likely isn’t.
    If I was threatened by by the man to sign the VAOP, is this dures. I’m getting married and the soon to be step father is a better influence then the man who had made me sign the paper work ever was, he is currently homeless and jobless and fighting for visitation. If I can have the man I know is really the father take a DNA test could we be able to have him voluntarily give his parental rights up so my fiancé can adopt them as his own and we can get my children away from my ex?

    Missouri Paternity
    I recently won the right to have my name removed as the father, all arreas erased and all future support stopped. The new Missouri Senate Bill 141 allows that and says I am not entitled to any monitary damages back. HOWEVER, after submitting emails from the mother to the real father, stating that she had known for awhile it was not mine, and “thought she could pull it off” the judge allowed me to continue the case in his court. I am looking for a lawyer who would be interested in this case in Kansas City Missouri. Please contact James at 845-707-2687

    was refused a DNA test by a woman that forged my signature on the birth certificate…
    I had this paternity case in Madison Wisconsin and the mother has been convicted with corporate fraud and she refuse’s to give DNA, the judge refused to do the DNA test and she refuse me visitation, it can only be supervised because she is afraid that i will get a swab of the child’s DNA, and i would like to know what i can do about this matter. I have lost jobs due to his matter and of the mother of the child putting me in jail due to the matter, my taxes straight to child support, and i have also had injury settlements have been taken and the state of Wisconsin says that they have never received them witch is a bunch of crap because they were sent by an attorney hear in Missouri. Please contact me about this matter at john.conn17@yahoo.com, i really need help with this matter I have lost too much money on a kid that may not be mine.

    Thank You and have A nice day.

    Sincerely,

    John H Conn
    john.conn17@yahoo.com

    acknowledgement of paternity
    i have alot of questions for you..my husband is going through this right now and we dont know how to proceed.my daughter asked him to sign the paternity acknowledgement and 2 years later she wants his name off.

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