Trust but Verify

Oklahoma City, OK–It’s the same old story; the man asks the woman ‘is the child mine?’  She says ‘yes.’  He believes her, pays to support the child and later finds out she lied.  In Oklahoma, as in so many other states, after two years, he’s stuck.  He is legally obligated to support the child of another man.  And he has no legal recourse against the woman who lied to him.

This article gives a pretty good summary of the issues involved and even quotes the 30% false paternity rate courtesy of the American Association of Blood Banks (NewsOK, 12/29/08).  (To be clear, the AABB is the agency that licenses DNA testing labs across the country.  Its 30% figure is for contested cases, i.e. those in which the father already has some doubt about paternity.  So 30% false paternity is in no way an across-the-board figure.)

Paternity fraud is one of the obvious instances in which laws must change.  As it stands, in many states, a man named as the father must contest paternity within the statutory period of time (in this case two years) whether he has any reason to doubt his paternity or not.  In other words, every man involved in a divorce and every single man who believes he’s fathered a child needs to get DNA testing done on each child.  Given that paternity fraud exists in probably no more than 10% of cases, that’s an enormous waste of resources.

There is a better way.

Fathers’ rights organizations should lobby state legislatures to enact laws allowing men to file suit to establish paternity within a specified period of time after they discover (i.e they know or have reason to know) that the child is not theirs.  That’s what Rep. Ben Sherrer’s bill would have done in Oklahoma had it passed.  This “discovery rule” is commonplace throughout laws governing when lawsuits must be filed.

There are those who will argue that it is not in the child’s interest to allow the defrauded man off the hook.  That’s a sham argument.  The fact is someone is the father, and that someone can pay support as well as the man who isn’t the father.  It hardly encourages personal responsibility on the part of the mother or the father to require a man to pay for a child who’s not his.

In the meantime, trust but verify.  Always get a DNA test.

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