The Kentucky Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a case involving hero father Ren Hinshaw, a “duped dad” fighting to retain custody of the 8-year-old boy he’s raised since birth. Hinshaw didn’t find out that he wasn’t the boy’s biological father until his divorce, when his ex-wife went to court to cut him out of the boy’s life, claiming Hinshaw had no legal right to keep seeing what he thought was his kid. According to a Louisville Courier-Journal article earlier this year:
“‘He is my son, and I am his dad,’ Hinshaw said in an e-mail to the newspaper.
“The child’s mother says Hinshaw should have no right to custody…
“Hinshaw was in the delivery room when the boy he thought was his son was born in 1999.
“He cut the umbilical cord and later changed the boy’s diapers, taught him to talk and volunteered at his school, according to court records.
“Hinshaw, a technology consultant at the University of Louisville’s Kornhauser Health Sciences Library, described the boy in court records as the most important thing in his life.
“But when the child’s mother, Jacqueline, divorced Hinshaw in 2003, she disclosed he wasn’t the biological father and asked Jefferson Family Court to deny him custody.
“Judge Virginia Whittinghill ordered a counselor to meet with the child. She concluded he had bonded with Hinshaw and that it would be ‘very devastating to him if he was not in his life.’ She described Hinshaw as the boy’s ‘psychological father.’
“Whittinghill not only granted Hinshaw’s motion for joint custody, she also made his home the boy’s primary residence and ordered his ex-wife to pay him $25,000 in attorney’s fees.
“The Court of Appeals last September affirmed the decision, saying the case wasn’t about paternity but ‘the custody rights between a husband and wife as they relate to a child born and raised within the confines of the marriage.’
“Hinshaw’s ex-wife, who has since remarried, is now asking the state Supreme Court to hear the case. She and her lawyer, Peter Ostermiller, declined comment, but in court papers they say that DNA should rule, even if the decision is not in the child’s best interests.
“They also contend that Hinshaw had no standing to seek custody, just as the state Supreme Court held last year when it denied such rights to a lesbian partner who was not a child’s legal parent.
“After two years as the boy’s primary parent, Hinshaw said in court papers that his bond with the child has grown even stronger and that it would ‘take a chunk’ out of his heart if the child was taken away.
“‘This is a bond that no person should put asunder,’ he said.”
The case is now being considered by the Kentucky Supreme Court, along with the James Rhoades case. To learn more, click here.
We rarely hear publicly about cases like Hinshaw’s, but I see them often. In my co-authored column ‘Duped Dad’ Bill Could Foster Closer Ties (Denver Rocky Mountain News, 2/7/07) I wrote:
“In many cases, however, paternity fraud claims arise after the duped dad has been pushed to the margins of the children’s lives during a divorce or separation. Sometimes the mother even attempts to use the fact that the man is not the biological father as a way to get the family court to limit or deny him visitation time, while still demanding that he pay child support. Perhaps a Gandhi or a Saint Joseph might be content to pay their exes a large portion of their income in such situations, but they may be the only ones.
“[Journalists who write] about paternity fraud, miss an important point–many duped dads still want to parent their nonbiological children, provided they are allowed a meaningful role in their lives. Some duped dads even wage long, expensive legal battles to remain in the lives of the children with whom they have bonded. Paternity fraud receives substantial media coverage, but these men rarely make the news stories.”