I’ve written before about paternity fraud, but never a case like this one (Daily Mail, 5/29/11). Because the events took place in England and the children are minors, no one is named.
The man and his wife were married in 1979. In 1999, he got the bad news that treatment for his severe arthritis could render him infertile, so he deposited some of his semen at a sperm bank where it was cryogenically preserved for future use should the need arise.
But the pair divorced childless a year later. Then, entirely unbeknownst to him, his ex-wife went to the sperm bank, forged his name on a document (presumably for the release of the specimen), convinced an in vitro fertilization clinic to inseminate her, conceived a child and gave birth to a daughter. Amazingly enough, she repeated the process two years later and had a son.
The man knew none of this. Indeed, as his own father was dying, the man’s ex-wife came to see her former father-in-law in the hospital and brought her daughter with her. The man didn’t know the child was his; his father died not knowing he had a granddaughter.
Things went along normally enough for several years until the woman ran short of money, and I suppose there’s no regular reader of this blog who can’t figure out what happened next. Of course, she went to court for child support. The man argued that he had no knowledge of the children, had not consented to father children with his ex-wife, the entire thing had come about through the multiple frauds on the part of his ex and he had been kept from the children through her deceit.
All in vain. The judge ordered him to pay her £100,000 in back child support. That was on top of the £200,000 he’d already spent on legal fees. Of course he was given visitation with the children; at first it was supervised and now he sees them every other weekend.
That’s all true despite the fact that he’d remarried long before any of this came to light and had two children of his own. He reports that his wife is dealing with the situation well and the two sets of kids get along fine.
If you read much in the family law news, you’ll soon run into a situation in which a man learns after the fact about a child he’s fathered and whom the mother decided to keep secret from him. That’s what I call Type B paternity fraud. Type A is when a woman tells a man her child is his when it’s not. Type B is when she refuses to tell him about his child or tells him it’s someone else’s.
In those case, when the man seeks to enter the child’s life after months or years, we will reliably read something to the effect that “yes, she did wrong, but what’s important is the child’s well-being and having a man who’s a stranger to the child come into the child’s world would be too upsetting, etc.” But where child support is involved, it’s funny how you never hear those voices.
It’s funny how, when it’s all about money, unknown men can come and go and no one says “boo” about how upsetting to the child it must be. That’s because children adjust pretty well to new adults in their lives. After all isn’t that what divorce and remarriage accomplish – bringing a new parent into the child’s life? So keeping dads who learn about their kids after the fact out of their lives is not about child well-being. It’s about controlling dads’ access to children. It’s about maintaining mothers’ power over fathers’ rights.
And that coincidentally, is the main thing that sticks in our British dad’s craw.
He said: ‘I was stunned when I found out she had withdrawn my sperm without my consent because at the time we had split up and were going through a divorce.
‘It was a deliberate act to bring two children into this world without a father to look after them. I was never at the clinic and I never signed the documents.
‘I love the children and spend money on taking them out and buying them clothes, but it is an expense I shouldn’t really have. The cost of this has been huge.
‘It is scary to think how little control I had over it all. I just can’t understand how they believed her.
“How little control.” Actually, he had none at all. And that’s the main point. In a culture that bends over backwards to give women control over their fertility and the consequences of their sexual choices, you might think that men would have the same, but you’d be wrong. At every bend in the road from conception to childbirth to child rearing, men’s parental rights are placed firmly in women’s hands. The least ingenuity on the part of a mother can deny a man all knowledge of and access to his child. On the other hand it can require a man to support a child who’s not his. It can deny the finest and most loving father the right to even know about the adoption of his child by strangers. It can deny visitation to a divorced father.
That ingenuity can accomplish all those things and far more for one simple reason – the law allows it. Sanity may dictate that, if we want fathers involved in children’s lives, they have to have the opportunity to do so. But what we do is entirely different. What we do is reward deception and violations of court orders by mothers. Never mind that cutting a father out of a child’s life is bad for the child, we’re glad to paper over the rift with nonsense about the best interests of the child.
If you don’t believe me, just listen to what the mother in our British case had to say:
The woman who forged her ex-husband’s signature so she could have his children by IVF has refused to apologise and revealed she would ‘do it again.’
She said: ‘I don’t believe I have done anything wrong. It was getting later and later for me and I wanted to have a child.
‘If I had not done it then I would not be blessed with my children.
‘I have no regrets – I would do it again. ‘The children known they came from the freezer and the younger one says he comes from Iceland, but they know they are loved.’
Who can argue? After all, the law backs up everything she said. It’s all about her desires and she wasn’t getting any younger, wanted kids so why not lie to the sperm bank, lie to the IVF clinic, defraud her ex-husband and deprive her children of a father during their early years? What could be the problem with that?
Well, most people can find a lot wrong with it, but none of them happen to serve in the British Parliament. According to British law, she seems to have done nothing wrong, so why should she see it any other way?
There’s a solution to this. Every jurisdiction should have a law that says that no father can have his parental rights or obligations either diminished or established until he knows about his child and has an opportunity to take an active part in its life. And no case shows it better than this one. It is beyond outrageous that a perfectly upstanding man should be defrauded in this way. It is worse still that he should be made to pay support to the woman who did the defrauding.
Until laws change, children will still go without fathers and fathers without children, and mothers will still tell the world that paternity fraud isn’t wrong.
Thanks to Malcolm for the heads-up.