Here’s the follow-up to the Ohio paternity fraud case of Ronald and Angela Burel (WALB, 1/5/11).
It too is a paternity fraud case, but this time out of Georgia. In the Burel case, two Ohio courts ruled that he has no civil remedy for being defrauded about his paternity over the course of 10 years. But in the Georgia case, it looks like the woman will face not only civil remedies but criminal charges as well.
There are similarities between the cases, and there are differences. In the Georgia case, a (so-far-unnamed) woman told a man that a little girl was his child. They weren’t married, but he paid child support right along.
But then the little girl reached the age of five and told the man that he’s not her father and sure enough, she was right. Truth to tell, the woman’s not her mother. She’s only her godmother (and who better to set a moral example for the tyke?) and, since the child was with her a fair amount, I guess she looked like her mom to the guy. Whatever the case, the scam worked and she bilked the guy our of child support for years.
Anyway, the article says she’ll certainly face criminal charges. My guess is that she’ll be made to pay back the money she scammed from the man as part of her punishment. Certainly he would be able to sue her for return of the money if restitution isn’t forthcoming.
It’s as I said; two cases, two different results.
In both cases a woman told a man a child was his who in fact was not. In the first case, the woman was the mother; in the second case, she’s not. In the first case the woman knew the target of her fraud might not be the father but never let on; in the second case, she knew he wasn’t but told him he was. In the first case the man has no remedy whatsoever; in the second, he has the full panoply of legal responses from criminal punishments to civil damages.
Why the radical difference in legal approaches to similar cases? Well, of course the event happened in different states, but I doubt case law varies much between the two. (Does anyone seriously believe that Ohio would give a pass to a woman who did what the Georgia woman did?)
What about the fact that in the first case the pair were married and the second they’re not? That certainly played a role in the Ohio court’s opinion; recall that it “hung its hat” on the fact that the man was the “presumed” father because he was married to the mother. But as I said, that’s strange since the presumption was incontrovertibly rebutted.
And in any case, why would a court give rights to an unmarried man who’s been defrauded that it doesn’t give to a married one? Doesn’t that discourage marriage?
I’d say that the salient difference in the two cases is that the woman in the first was the mother of the child and the woman in the second is not. Here as in so many family court matters, the law bends every concept of rationality and common decency to grant rights and powers to mothers at the expense of fathers. Paternity fraud is one of the classic and most egregious examples of exactly that.
Both women committed paternity fraud and received the man’s money because of it.
But the Georgia woman isn’t the child’s mother, so she can’t avail herself of the extraordinary rights, powers and protections courts routinely afford mothers.
This I believe.
Thanks to John for the heads-up.