by Jeffery M. Leving | July 23, 2009
Frank Hatley spent the past year in Cook County jail in South Georgia for falling behind in child support payments. However, as the court was aware, he had no children according to court documents. A DNA test even confirmed that there was no chance he was the father.
Walter Sharpe, from Philadelphia, was forced to pay more than $12,000 in child support for another man’s daughter. He spent two years in jail for falling behind in child support payments. Sharpe’s Petitions filed for DNA testing were denied by the judge. However, the paternity order against him was finally overturned after the girl’s mother failed to show up to a court hearing.
Paternity Fraud victims need justice. Our system is broken.
A report issued by the American Association of Blood Banks found that nearly 30 percent of paternity tests conducted in the U.S. reveal that the man being tested is not the biological father. Partially as a result of the availability of DNA paternity testing, thousands of fathers are discovering that “their” child is someone else’s. But, many of these “duped dads” continue to be responsible for the payment of child support or suffer the consequences of jail.
Too many states adhere to an archaic 500-year-old English common-law doctrine that a married man is always legally presumed the father of a child born of the marriage, even if he is not the biological father. Unmarried men 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. It’s time to correct this injustice. Paternity fraud is just as reprehensible as any other kind of fraud from which the public needs protection.
Tony Jackson is a California father who had to work two jobs to pay back approximately $13,000 in back child support for a child proven by DNA testing not to be his. It’s time to release men like Jackson from this blatant injustice.
Opponents of paternity fraud legislation needed to correct this problem say we must prevent “duped dads” from abandoning children that are not theirs biologically. In 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 as well as the biological father. 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 children proven by DNA testing not to be theirs is not in the best interests of children and families. It can also deprive children of ever knowing their true biological fathers.
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 that 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.
I encourage all state legislatures to pass fair paternity fraud bills requiring courts to order DNA testing when requested. 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.