Here’s a higher-profile-than-usual false paternity case courtesy of rapper J-Kwon and his as-yet-unnamed girlfriend (BVBlackSpin, 2/11/11). Read the article and click on the link it begins with. That’ll take you to a short interview with J-Kwon himself.
It seems that, seven years ago, when he was 18, J-Kwon had received “his first million-dollar check,” and in short order was informed by his girlfriend that she was pregnant with his child. Being young and, from the sound of his interview, a nice young man, he stepped up to the plate. That meant having her come to live in his house and paying $2,500 per month in child support for seven years.
During the time she was living in his house, J-Kwon believes she intercepted documents from the court that might have informed him of his right to seek a paternity test which, for whatever reason, he didn’t do.
Seven years later, he’s learned that the child is not his. From what I can gather (the articles I’ve read are none-too-precise) he quit paying support when he learned the child was another man’s. That of course landed him in jail, which duly put a crimp in his recording career.
So the young man is learning a lot. Another thing he’s learned is that the legal system offers him no remedy whatsoever for the fraud perpetrated on him by his former girlfriend.
That’s because, in paternity situations, unlike all (as far as I can tell) others, the law places the onus of establishing the truth not on the person who knows the truth, but on the one who doesn’t. Fraud, as all understand, is intentionally lying about a particular transaction. “The car I’m asking you to buy has never been in an accident,” constitutes fraud if the seller knows it has been in an accident.
But fraud can also consist of failure to divulge important facts about a transaction that the person who knows the facts knows or should suspect that the other person would want to know. So failure to tell the buyer that the house floods can be fraud even if the the buyer doesn’t ask about that particular thing.
In short, the law requires those with knowledge of problems, defects, etc., not on the buyer, who doesn’t know about them, but on the seller, who does. It hasn’t always been that way. The doctrine of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) put the burden on the buyer to figure out if there was a problem with the car, the house, etc. That doctrine is long outmoded and one of the reasons it was abandoned was because requiring the person with the facts to divulge them makes more sense than requiring the one without the facts to in some way figure them out.
All that is perfectly rational, which must make the way the law treats paternity fraud perfectly, well, irrational.
Now, of course there will be those who say that J-Kwon’s girlfriend likely didn’t know who the father was. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that’s true. Let’s assume that she had sex with J-Kwon and another man fairly close together in time. So, when she finds out she’s pregnant, she doesn’t know who the father is.
Assuming all that to be true, as a matter of morality, she should tell both men that either may be the father. That gives both the opportunity to have genetic testing done and find out who the father is. With that knowledge, the father can pick up his parental duties and begin bonding with his child. The other man can go his own way.
Doing so would mean that the correct man pays and the incorrect one doesn’t, the actual father gets to know his child from birth and the other doesn’t and the child gets to know its true father, not some other man, from the start.
Paternity fraud trumps all of that. The wrong man pays, the wrong man does child care, the child bonds with the wrong man and the real father bears no responsibility and enjoys none of the benefits of fatherhood.
Of course if the real dad never finds out, then likely neither does the child. And in time, that could cause serious problems in terms of medical issues, inheritance issues, etc.
All of that the law permits and, as I said, it does so in no other situation but that of paternity. It’s a legal situation that’s remarkable for being anti-father and anti-child. But into the bargain it fairly shouts the question “for what?” We’ve seen what is lost by blithely permitting paternity fraud to continue unpunished, but what is gained?
If there’s an upside, I don’t see it. What we do is, once again, place fathers’ rights in mothers’ hands. Given that there’s nothing positive about our legal approach to paternity fraud, it’s almost as if that’s the point – to maintain mothers’ hegemony over fathers’ rights.
The solution to the paternity fraud problem is actually simple. The most direct one would be to require DNA testing of all children at birth to establish paternity. That would still allow mothers to say “I don’t know who he is or where he is,” and thereby make testing impossible. But in most cases, mandatory DNA testing would solve a multitude of parental and child-support issues.
In addition to mandatory testing, laws should be changed to ensure that no man’s parental rights are diminished or parental duties established until his paternity has been proven by genetic testing and he’s been informed of the results.
That would allow men to claim their children against those who would adopt them; it would allow mothers to claim child support from the correct father; it would allow children to know their true fathers including pertinent medical history; it would place responsibility for bringing children into the world on the men who do that and not on the ones who don’t; it would for all times relieve men of the uncertainty that now dogs so many of them.
For now we’ll have to make do with J-Kwon and his celebrity status to publicize the many manifest injustices that stem from the failure to require the truth to be told.