According to a June 17, 2002 Associated Press article concerning my client, Carnell Smith, men across the country are “…challenging laws forcing non-fathers to pay child support.” As the attorney who filed the appearance with the U.S. Supreme Court representing Mr. Smith, a man forced by court order to pay child support for another man’s child, I wholeheartedly support this development. It’s time to pass “paternity fraud” legislation, and here’s why:
Partially as a result of the availability of DNA paternity testing, men are discovering in alarming numbers that children they believed were their biological offspring are not. It was reported that in 28 percent of paternity tests conducted in one study, the man being tested was not the biological father. Nevertheless, many of these men continue to be liable for child support for other men’s children or suffer the consequences of jail.
Too many states adhere to a 500-year-old English common-law doctrine that a married man is always legally presumed the father of a child born of the marriage. This is archaic. What would happen if we applied the same twisted logic to a woman married to man who fathered a child from an extramarital affair? Would we proclaim that because she was married to her husband, she is the legal mother of the child born of the affair and force her to financially support another woman’s child? We would do no such thing, yet there are men who are court ordered to pay in the analogous situation.
Unmarried men also can be court ordered to pay child support for children they did not father through default paternity and child support judgments. Such judgments can be court ordered without the alleged father’s knowledge.
Ignoring paternity fraud is not different than ignoring DNA testing showing a convicted murderer wasn’t guilty of murder. It’s time to correct this injustice.
Paternity fraud is just as reprehensible as many other kind of fraud from which Americans need protection. Whenever there is an unlawful, unconstitutional taking of money, those monies should be returned. And even if they can’t be returned, there should be a law that they must be returned. Without that, where is the morality in our society in allowing any type of fraud to exist and allowing the wrongdoer to keep the profits of their actions?
Tony Jackson is a California father who, at the time of a CBS report, had to work two jobs to pay back approximately $13,000 in back child support for a child proven by DNA testing not to b his. It’s time to release men like Jackson from this blatant injustice.
Opponents of paternity fraud legislation like to say we must prevent “duped dads” from abandoning “their” children. In the many cases I’ve seen, the “duped dad” does not want to abandon the child he has come to love as his own. It was the system that drove him off. For example, in one outrageous case in Texas, the judge ordered a man to pay child support for another man’s three children and cut off his visitation with all of the children. Who is really hurting the children in cases such as this?
To those who say children will be left unsupported if men are not forced to pay support, I say that the men who should support the children should be the biological fathers. Making men pay child support for the children proven by DNA testing not to be their is not in the best interests of children and families. It can also deprive children of ever knowing their true biological fathers.
To those opponents who say passage of these laws would “prolong uncertainty about
paternity”, I say we’re still uncertain about paternity; we’re just pretending we’re not. How does setting up an elaborate lie about who a child’s real father is protect children and society? It clearly doesn’t.
The real fear underlying the arguments of many of the dwindling number of opponents of this legislation is losing a cash cow for agencies and institutions who benefit financially by preserving the status quo. In reality, it has little to do with protecting the interests of children.
States benefit by collecting financial incentive payments from the federal government for child support collected. It is easier for child support agencies to financially squeeze the “duped dad” than to find the biological dad, who may not even know he has a child and would welcome the opportunity to step up to the plate and be Dad.
The momentum is certainly in favor of this type of legislation. It is common sense that men who have been incorrectly named as fathers should be able to contest paternity judgments without time limits on when the man can be released from the child support obligation.
I encourage all state legislatures to pass fair paternity fraud bills and to join the other progressive states, like Ohio and Georgia, who have similar legislation. I also encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the next Paternity Fraud case that comes before it. A correct ruling by the high court would speed justice along for everyone. This is clearly what is right and the public is overwhelmingly in favor of it.