Duped ‘Dad’ Fights to Stay in Child’s Life

Flip the paternity fraud coin over and what do we see on the other side?  This case and countless more like it (Courier Mail, 2/20/11).

I’ve written a good bit about paternity fraud, most recently about the almost 600 Australian men who’ve discovered within the past three years or so that they’ve been duped into supporting children they didn’t father. 

Though many have tried to get reimbursement from the mother, only 74 have succeeded.  They’re all stuck in the same bind; they fight the conflicting emotions of anger and hurt that come from learning they’ve been lied to once about their paternity and then every day of the child’s life during each of which the mother could have come clean but didn’t.

Then of course many of them have been able to have a relationship with the little boys and girls they thought were theirs.  And regardless of the child’s actual biology, those relations are real – as real as it gets.

Then into the bargain, there’s the other guy, whoever he is, who’s now paying to support “his” child, who he doesn’t know and doesn’t know him.

All of that heartbreak and confusion, anger and pain or course could have been avoided.  The words “the child may not be yours” would have done the trick, but the people with knowledge of the facts about paternity – the mothers – chose not to say them.  A tangled web indeed.

And it’s not a bit less so for the pseudonymous Queensland man the article calls Mr. Mulvaney.  He learned he’s not the father of “his son” when the boy was five and he’s not about to give up his relationship with the lad.  That was two years ago and, one divorce later, three judges have sided with “Mr. Mulvaney.”  He’s been the boy’s father in all senses but the biological one from the start, the boy certainly knows him as his father and he’ll get the chance to continue to be exactly that.

But now Mr. Mulvaney has received a letter from the solictor for the biological dad proving that, yes, the web is indeed tangled.  The article doesn’t mention what the letter said, but we can guess.  The man has been excluded from his son’s life for many years, may now be paying child support and – surprise, surprise – wants a relationship with the boy too.

And who can blame him?  In his case too, but for the mother’s decision to control who got what information, he’d have been involved in his son’s life from the start.  It wasn’t his fault that he wasn’t, any more than it was Mr. Mulvaney’s fault that he wasn’t.  No, fault lies with only one person.

Will any of this be confusing and upsetting to the child?  I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be.  And that is why, in addition to the needs of fathers to know who their children are and who they’re not, DNA testing should be performed on every child at its birth.  When the truth comes out, as it so often does, two men are seriously hurt it’s true, but so is a child.  Those who oppose testing need to explain why that’s OK with them.

Sole Parents’ Union president Kathleen Swinbourne said relationships were as important as DNA – the key was to put the welfare of children first.

No one seriously questions that.  But what so many people aren’t willing to admit is that allowing paternity fraud to continue damages both children’s welfare and their relationships.  Children don’t benefit from fathers and non-fathers appearing and disappearing from their lives, and yet that’s precisely what’s going in Mr. Mulvaney’s son’s life this very minute.

And it’s not because the men are trying to avoid responsibility or don’t want to be part of his care and upbringing.  On the contrary, both of them do and no sane legal system would say ‘no’ to either.

As things stand now, we place fathers’ rights in mothers’ hands.  The case discussed in the article is a perfect example.  Rather than tell both men as soon as she knew she was pregnant, the mother decided for both of them.  She decided her husband would be father to the child and the other man would remain a stranger to him.  That worked until the boy was five and the whole house of cards collapsed – on the child’s head.

DNA testing would place fathers’ rights where they belong – in fathers’ hands, as opposed to those of non-fathers.  Children would grow up with one father and would have no chance of acquiring another from out of the blue.

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