Paternity Fraud Rampant, With Justice Difficult To Find
01 March 2016IN: Family Law
It shouldn’t be this complicated. After all, biology is usually never wrong. The question of paternity, however, has become a legal quagmire filled with loopholes, gender bias, and perhaps the most disturbing element of all, incompetent representation, turning simple cases of parentage into examples of gross familial injustice.
It is especially hard on the fathers, who frequently find themselves bearing the brunt of the support obligation, taking care of kids who are not theirs, even when DNA tests prove they are not the father, and inevitably blocked by the Courts from even getting to see these children. Most states have done little to address this problem, making paternity fraud a national epidemic.
According to the New York Times, as many as 30% of fathers are currently paying to support children who aren’t their own. This is the direct result of a broken system, one that allows the mother to list anyone she wants on a birth certificate or government assistance form as long as she has a name and address, guaranteeing the State’s interference in the named individual’s life from that point forward.
The legal presumption is that all children require the financial aid of both the parties involved in their creation, and without the voluntary commitment of both as to parentage, any name will do. With decades of precedent squarely in place, named fathers who aren’t the biological parent often find a court uninterested in listening and judges eager to wrap up family law cases with the quick swing of the gavel and the garnishment of wages.
DNA tests after the fact rarely matter. The best interest of the child (read: the minor’s need for support) often trumps the truth. Until the age of emancipation, someone has to pay the bills. Granted, this mostly occurs in cases where the parties are unmarried and welfare or other government program is involved, but even in the best circumstances, fathers face an uphill battle when it comes to issues of paternity. With more than 40% of children born out of wedlock, the problem is only getting worse.
And historically, unwed fathers have very little standing in court. They may pay for support, but other rights are rarely, if ever, granted. The unwed mother earns instant physical and legal custody of the child at birth. Unless paternity is established at the time of birth – usually by putting the father’s name on the birth certificate – the man can face an uphill battle. Even with paternity initially recognized, what follows can be a complex and convoluted process which requires keen knowledge of the law and legal procedures to establish visitation and joint custody rights.