Texan Seeks Redress for False Paternity

This piece is from Beaumont, Texas where Michael Thomas has discovered to his surprise and dismay that he’s yet another duped dad (KFDM, 2/25/11).  OK, duped non-dad.

Thomas got divorced back in 2006, but in 2009 had a DNA test that revealed that he has 0% chance of being the father of the child he’s always thought of as his.  Much like rapper J-Kwon, about whom I’ve recently posted a piece, Thomas has been paying child support right along, to the tune of $400 a month. 

Now he’s had enough and wants to be relieved of the child support obligation.  He seems to think that the man who actually fathered the child should be responsible for it.

Into the bargain, it seems that his ex has been hindering his relationship with the child.  As local activist Quanell X describes it,

“He’s still being forced to pay child support for a child he has no relationship with, a child that’s not his, and that science DNA is proved the baby don’t belong to Michael Thomas.”

Thomas adds,

“I just want justice to be served, and I want things to get corrected for me and for others like me that’s going through the same situation.”

As I understand Texas law, Thomas is probably out of luck.  The last thing I knew was that, in the Lone Star State, if a man doesn’t contest paternity at the time of divorce, the matter becomes res judicata, i.e. judicially decided, and he’s forever foreclosed from claiming a child of the marriage isn’t his.  I wonder if his lawyer thought to mention that to him, or if he even had a lawyer.

So when the Attorney General’s office tells Thomas that he has to appeal the matter, it sounds like a losing battle to me.  I’ll follow the case and see how it turns out.

Statistics on false paternity are all over the place, mostly because comprehensive data aren’t kept.  What information we have tends to come from non-representative samples.  So the American Association of Blood Banks has found that 30% of the men contesting paternity were found not to be the dad.  But they’re the ones who think they have a reason to be concerned and therefore get tested.  They’re not a broadly representative group.  Other populations, like cystic fibrosis sufferers, are also too specialized to draw broad conclusions from.

Back in 2000, I tried to come up with an across-the-board figure for paternity fraud.  My methodology was conservative and I had to make certain assumptions, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the figure.  But I came up with a range of 6.9% – 10.0% of all births resulting from false paternity. 

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the actual figure is within that range.  But whatever the case, I’m amazed that no one has simply conducted a broad-based random-sample survey to establish the rate of false paternity.  It wouldn’t be hard, so why hasn’t one been done?

If my figures are right, it would mean about 290,000 – 420,000 newborns per year in the United States being unknown to their true fathers.  That’s over 6 million kids under the age of 18 who don’t know their true dad.

As I always say, we need to test every child at birth to establish its true paternity.  That’s partly a matter of valuing the truth over untruth; it’s also a matter of children knowing their true medical history; it’s also a matter of holding fathers responsible for their own children and not some stranger; and finally it’s a matter of saving unspeakable heartache and pain to men and children when they finally learn the truth.

Somehow there are people who oppose all that.  I’ve never understood how.

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