F & F Pens Column for Los Angeles Daily News on Our Paternity Fraud Bill

ladn-logoFathers and Families Board Chairman Ned Holstein, MD, MS, and Executive Director Glenn Sacks have co-authored Bill would give ‘duped dads’ some fairness under the law (Los Angeles Daily News, 6/2/11), laying out the case for CA SB 375, a paternity fraud bill. The  Daily News is Los Angeles’ 2nd largest newspaper, and the piece was the lead op-ed.

To write a Letter to the Editor about the column, please click here. To post a comment on it, please click here.

In the column we wrote:

The Arnold Schwarzenegger paternity case has revealed a large flaw in California family law, one which, ironically, Schwarzenegger attempted to fix while Governor. The flaw? Schwarzenegger fathered a child with Mildred Patty Baena, who was married to Rogelio Baena at the time. Under California law, Schwarzenegger wouldn”t be obligated to pay a dime in child support–but deceived husband Rogelio Baena would be.

Currently the only person who can be held legally responsible to support the child is the mother”s then-husband, who is presumed to be the father because the child was born into the marriage. Judges routinely (and at times apologetically) saddle such “duped dads’ with stiff child support orders. In one paternity fraud case, Arthur Gilbert, presiding judge of the Second District, Division 6 Court of Appeal, wrote:

“I reluctantly concur with the majority. Once again I vent my frustration over the state of [California] law in paternity cases…I would reverse the judgment–if I could. But I cannot…[I] suggest the Legislature reconsider…Is anyone listening?’

This year, Senator Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) introduced SB 375, which would end the marital paternity presumption.

This ancient presumption is anachronistic and destructive, and has led to horrendous injustices. In some cases, a divorced man must pay child support for the child of his ex-wife and her paramour–and pay it into the household where the paramour and the ex-wife, the two biological parents, now live! In others, there”s “father shopping’–if mom can get more child support out of her ex-husband than her ex-boyfriend, then he”s “dad.’

The most common scenario is this: a husband does not learn that the child of his marriage is not his child until after the limited window for challenging paternity has closed. After the couple divorces, the mother minimizes or withholds visitation, sometimes citing the father”s non-paternity as a justification. Yet dad is still forced to pay child support–for children who are not his, and with whom he is not allowed to have a relationship…

Getting the biological parentage wrong can have serious and damaging medical consequences for children. Current California law declares that there is a compelling state interest in determining paternity for all children. SB 375 would instead declare that there is a “compelling state interest in determining biological paternity for all children.’

Legislation to encourage accurate paternity identifications for medical reasons has been supported by many prestigious medical institutions, including the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In March, over 50 physicians signed a letter to Senator Wright emphasizing that “good patient care includes accurate family histories,’ and urging California to “employ reasonable means, including DNA testing, to accurately determine children’s paternity’…

Texas family court judge David Hanschen, expressing frustration over a paternity fraud case in his court in which the limited time allowed for challenging paternity had expired, recently wrote:

“The ultimate victims of [current] laws are ignored–the children. To decide a child cannot know who his real parents are because an arbitrary amount of time has passed is manifestly unjust…the truth doesn’t have a statute of limitation.”

To read the full column, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *