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What happens when DNA proves you're not the father of the child you've been compelled to pay to support?
December 4, 2002 8:00 AM   Subscribe


 
Even given my boredom with the outrage-omatic approach to blogging, I thought you folks might have something interesting to say about the legal struggle over child support payments in cases where DNA testing shows that the man being compelled to pay child support is not the child's father. One passage from the article that really raised an eyebrow:
Many unwed fathers paying child support have never admitted paternity. A 1996 federal welfare law requires a woman to name a father -- no questions asked -- when she applies for public assistance. A court summons can be mailed to the man's last known address. Many men don't get the notice. The result: The paychecks of 527,224 men in California, for example, are being docked under ''default'' judgments of paternity that can't be contested after six months."
I'm sympathetic to the men's cause, but I'm not sure they're winning points with the "fraud" approach.
posted by NortonDC at 8:00 AM on December 4, 2002


When you take on the role of parenting a child, whether or not it's biologically accurate, that isn't something a DNA test can undo later. I feel sorry for the 10-year-old child of Damon Adams, the dentist quoted in the article. What kind of guy would feel less for his child in that circumstance?
posted by rcade at 8:06 AM on December 4, 2002


Clearly, the laws are slapdash in this area and some under such circumstances would be entitled to a refund. Don't expect to see the problems ironed out for 20 more years, though.
posted by rushmc at 8:11 AM on December 4, 2002


ouch! how terrible. So Adams find out that the three children produced during his ten-year marriage weren't his?

rcade: "Adams says he's willing to directly aid the child he had thought was his but doesn't want to give his ex-wife any more cash."

which is being a father without having to send money to his cheatin' ex-wife. I can understand he might prefer that option.

"Think of it. I can get out of jail for murder based on DNA evidence, but I can't get out of child support payments"
posted by dabitch at 8:12 AM on December 4, 2002


From the article:
Many unwed fathers paying child support have never admitted paternity. A 1996 federal welfare law requires a woman to name a father -- no questions asked -- when she applies for public assistance. A court summons can be mailed to the man's last known address. Many men don't get the notice. The result: The paychecks of 527,224 men in California, for example, are being docked under ''default'' judgments of paternity that can't be contested after six months.
I feel that men who have taken on the responsibility to act as fathers to children in the past should continue to do so in the future. However, the above quote describes a rather half-baked scheme when it comes to paternity where the man may not even know of the existance of the child and will subsequently lose his chance to challenge the claim of paternity.

I think that the alleged father should be subpoenaed and required to either admit or challenge the paternity in such cases, where DNA evidence could be used in the challenge. At least it would be clear that he knew what was going on and wouldn't have to find out by the sudden dip in the amount of his paycheck!
posted by rocketpup at 8:23 AM on December 4, 2002


That's great, dabitch, but child support depends on a custodial parent exercising judgment over how the money is spent. If any non-custodial parent has a problem with that, maybe he or she should've worked a little harder to salvage the marraige.
posted by rcade at 8:25 AM on December 4, 2002


If you aren't the father you can decide to

a) forfeit the sum you gave to the mother for child support
b) ask money back, but that could be negative for the child
c) wait until the natual father is discovered, or a new father recognizes the child as his own and ask money back.

What's interesting is this question : is the DNA test _methodology_ 99,999% accurate ? And is the DNA test method an "open source" one, well known but constantly under scrutiny ?
posted by elpapacito at 8:29 AM on December 4, 2002


or he could fight for the custodial right of the kids that aren't his. then he gets to decide where the paycheck goes.

[it's the number that gets me. all three kids fathered by someone else. wow. I think 'she' might be the one who should have worked a little harder on making that marriage work.]
posted by dabitch at 8:34 AM on December 4, 2002


Kirk Van Houten: What happened to the $54 a month I send your mother?

Milhouse: "Weekday Dad" needed a new DVD player!
posted by Pollomacho at 8:45 AM on December 4, 2002


What about the guy who's paying $1,400 a month for a child he never knew existed? That's pretty mercenary of the mother to not tell him at some point in time and then have him slammed for child support in such a way as to place him and his family in a difficult situation. Even when I consider this situation a result of a one-night stand and I assume the mother searched for him to inform him; I still think it's wrong that he's now in this situation.

How are child support amounts decided upon? Are the income and financial obligations of the paying parent factored in? I have no idea how one person can be hit with $1,400 a month for one child and another only have to pay $234 a month to cover 3 young children. (The $234 was how much my father was supposed to pay to my siblings and me. I think out of the 14 years he was to make his payments, we received only three.)
posted by onhazier at 8:55 AM on December 4, 2002


DNA check methodology...

As I understand it you can not conclusively prove that someone is related to someone else. What you can do is prove that they aren't because the profiles are too different.

Unfortunately DNA 'matches' are taken as 100% proof. From memory, of the 6 billion people on the planet there are about 6 people out there who would match positive to your DNA profile, and they may have no connection to you at all. 1 in a billion isn't bad odds. Except I assume that you'd not get a match between white European, black African and Chinese Asian, so your 6 people are going to be spread over a much smaller area.

[ Yes I know that's playing games with stats and it's still a high degree of accuracy, but it still makes you think... ]
posted by twine42 at 9:13 AM on December 4, 2002


More proof that women are awful. I write that knowing that there are lots and lots of biological dead beat dads, and no good cads who knock women up and run away, but this article only deals with men who were cheated on, lied to, and now that they know the truth, still have suffer the consequences of selfish, no-good, lying women. I'd think that if a child is found to not be the biological heir of a person who is paying child support based on the previous assumption that there was a biological link, that person should be allowed to discontinue payments. It sucks for the children, but that doesn't justify a person being falsly charged with fatherhood. These men have suffered as much as the children, and the only person to blame is the lying, cheating woman.
posted by Mushkelley at 9:21 AM on December 4, 2002


That's great, dabitch, but child support depends on a custodial parent exercising judgment over how the money is spent. If any non-custodial parent has a problem with that, maybe he or she should've worked a little harder to salvage the marraige.

Good grief. Perhaps the custodial parent's poor judgment is part of the reason they're divorced in the first place.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:25 AM on December 4, 2002


How are child support amounts decided upon? now thats a good question. It doesn't seem to based on any logic like income or amount of children. true story, Judge to my Dad:
- Pay 800 kronor a month per child.
dad responds: "that's outrageous! that's unreal! I'll pay 8000 per child." And he strolled across the courtroom with a check right then, the judge disapproving at his outburst.
posted by dabitch at 9:28 AM on December 4, 2002


There's no question that the state child support systems are pretty messed up these days. States are hyper-aggressive in pursuing absent parents and pour far more money into these systems than they do into the administration of the rest of the public benefit system.

The problem here is a somewhat hidden conflict of interest by the state. Single mothers with kids that receive cash assistance or medicaid from the state are forced to sign away their right to child support to the state as a condition of eligibility. Thus, much of the money that these agencies are charged with collecting from absent parents go directly into state coffers, not into the pockets of poor single mothers. States face pretty much perpetual budget crunchs and a take-no-prisoners approach to child support enforcement is one way that they can raise significant renvenue without raising taxes. People are so captivated by the "deadbeat dad" meme that there is virtually no questioning by the public or even by public interest organizations about whether the state is providing these absent dads with due process of law before they attach their wages or otherwise coerce them into paying support.

This is not to say that absent dads don't have an obligation to support their kids and that there isn't a big problem with dads shirking this obligation. It's also not to say that blood relation is the only basis for requiring financial support. However, everyone, even absent dads, should get due process and the current systems simply are not interesting in providing it.
posted by boltman at 9:35 AM on December 4, 2002


1 in a billion isn't bad odds. Except... your 6 people are going to be spread over a much smaller area.

Yeah, but the pool of people who are going to hit you up for DNA testing isn't the entire planet; it's only the people who know you (in the biblical sense). So that would be a 1 in a billion chance per person-you-have-had-sex-with that a child of theirs who is not related to you would be falsely identified as yours in a DNA test. Combine that with false negatives and you can work out the overall degree of confidence in the test; if we're talking 1-in-a-billion chances, it's almost certainly more than the 99.999% that was being floated above.

is the DNA test method an "open source" one, well known but constantly under scrutiny ?

Wouldn't that come under the heading of 'scientific method'?
posted by rory at 9:36 AM on December 4, 2002


I found on on-line child support calculator for Virginia. It's pretty clunky, but it works. In my case, the amount I pay my ex-wife is mostly determined by her income and my income.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:09 AM on December 4, 2002


What happens when DNA proves you're not the father of the child you've been compelled to pay to support?
bitch better be gettin' out her checkbook, thats what!
posted by quonsar at 10:11 AM on December 4, 2002


Doesn't seem like there are any good solutions to this one. On the one hand, a mother who lies about the father of her child is utterly reprehensible. Especially since she's hurting her own child as well as the non-bio-dad. On the other hand, financially abandoning a child because it's mother lied to you isn't high on my list of wonderful things someone can do, either--It's not the kid's fault the mother lied. I am noticing, however, that in a lot of these "paternity fraud" cases, it seems as if the non-bio-dads don't really have an emotional connection with the kids. My husband has some doubts about the paternity of his daughters from his first marriage. But, he decided he was their father in every important respect, and he didn't want to have the DNA test, because if it turned out they weren't biologically his, he didn't want to risk that changing his feelings. He is reassured, however, that they both look a lot like him and his sisters. Perhaps there are a lot more men like my husband, who have doubts, but don't want to take the DNA test, and we just don't hear about them.
I just don't get the lying moms, though. First of all, why cheat? If you are unhappy with your partner, why not break up with them and then seek someone new? Seems a lot easier in the long run to me, not to mention that it's just plain the right thing to do. Second, if you do cheat, why on earth would you not use birth control? There can't be that many pregnancies as a result of contraception failure.
posted by CoFenchurch at 10:15 AM on December 4, 2002


We could prevent these situations by legislating mandatory DNA testing of mother, father and child as a condition of applying for a birth certificate, but that's probably a whole new can of worms.
posted by orange swan at 10:20 AM on December 4, 2002


I just don't get the lying moms, though. First of all, why cheat? If you are unhappy with your partner, why not break up with them and then seek someone new?

Money. Moneymoneymoney. At the end of the day this is about money, not children or marriage.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:25 AM on December 4, 2002


People - both men and women - behave badly sometimes, and for an incredibly wide range of reasons, and they always will, so for me the real issue here is what laws to create/amend/repeal so we can prevent and/or settle these terrible situations as equitably as possible.
posted by orange swan at 10:36 AM on December 4, 2002


Wow... so many comments to work from here. But my 2 cents (FWIW), if you're not the bio-dad, you're not responsible for sh!t... regardless of how long you may have been supporting the child in the past. It's the fairest and clearest place to draw the line.

Of course I would like to think that a father who has been supporting a child from birth for 10 years or whatever, would surely continue to help that child for as long as he wants to. But forcing him to based on that fact is horsesh!t.
posted by Witty at 10:40 AM on December 4, 2002


CoFenchurch, it gives me a little tingle to see that there are still people in the world untouched by cynicism.

Your questions are so reasonable.

Why don't people make a clean break first? Because usually emotions are not so clearcut. I love x, but I lust for y, surely I can have both if I work it right; I want to leave x, but I'm scared I'll be poor, maybe I can just keep it at a low level with y; we're drunk and you're cute and s/he won't be home till tomorrow; ...

As to contraceptive failure, almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned. There is a large gap between theoretical and actual failure rates when contraceptives are used at all. Many a casual bonk has been unprotected because lust has overtaken common sense. And some people have this peculiar idea that if they take precautions, that makes them bad for planning it, whereas if they don't, they must have been swept away on a tide of passion, and who can help that?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:45 AM on December 4, 2002


A 1996 federal welfare law requires a woman to name a father -- no questions asked -- when she applies for public assistance.

Yes, there are undoubtedly women who lie about paternity for a variety of reprehensible reasons, but this ruling guarantees another - desperation. "I don't know" is not an acceptable answer, so women are forced to come up with a name in order to receive the help they need. Then, to further the injury, their claims are never checked. Men end up the victims of bureaucratic rulings as well as intentional deceit.
posted by hilatron at 10:51 AM on December 4, 2002


Strange stuff in here:

If men who are paying child support no longer have to and authorities can't find the real fathers, welfare agencies will get the bill for family assistance.

But women's groups and many public officials responsible for enforcing child support are battling the movement, which they say imperils children.

Can someone please tell me what the hell either of these have to do with 'the truth' and doing what's right? These men are being scammed and taken advantage of, regardless of how it affects the states' coffers or the 'imperiled' children.
posted by eas98 at 10:58 AM on December 4, 2002


if you're not the bio-dad, you're not responsible for sh!t... regardless of how long you may have been supporting the child in the past. It's the fairest and clearest place to draw the line.

Whether or not it's fair, that's definitely the way the line is drawn in reverse: if you're the biological father, you're obligated to pay support regardless of the circumstances. Surely the obvious corollary should also apply: if you're not the biological father, you're not obligated to pay (which obviously doesn't preclude choosing to do so).
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:01 AM on December 4, 2002


The real problem here is that although the mother who lied about the paternity of her child is the one on whom the consequences should fall, the reality is that the child and the non-father are the ones to suffer. I tend to think that the non-father's rights outweigh the child's interests though - look at this way, he's probably ALREADY out a lot of money because he's been supporting the kid all its life. And the child does have other options - the mother will have at least some means of supporting it in most cases, and can go after the biological father for support or get public assistance if necessary.
posted by orange swan at 11:12 AM on December 4, 2002


And hilatron, the women and children are victims, too. Yes, that's right some women do not know who the father of their children are. It is also fair to say that if men could become pregnant, they too would have the same (or higher :-) rate of not knowing the parentage of their kids. It's just the biology of who gets left holding the bag (or baby in this case.)

The support laws are about protecting children from the irrationality and poor decisions of the adults. The woman has responsibility for the child. It is, with great frequency, very difficult to get paternal support, whether from the bio daddy or not, after a relationship ends. So a system was established under English common law (infidelity has been around forever) to ensure protection for the kids.

If you're a man, and you're worried about parenting a child that isn't biologically yours, get a DNA test immediately after birth. And then leave if you don't like the results. Don't stick around and cry sour grapes later. Of course your wife may leave you for being such a shallow twit.

But, in my opinion, you don't deserve to be a parent if you're that shallow. Adopted kids aren't the biological product of either adopted parent. Are they less worthy of support after a divorce too? Doesn't the agreement to take care of a child after it's birth, as demonstrated by years of support in the early years, equal that of adoption?
"Sorry kids, I'm not wasting my money on you if you didn't come from MY sperm."

Be a good human, pay the child support and act like a dad.
posted by Red58 at 11:15 AM on December 4, 2002


It's shallow to object if your spouse betrays you, breaks the wedding vows, screws another man and then expects you to support the offspring of that infidelity?

That's absurd.
posted by NortonDC at 11:21 AM on December 4, 2002


Adopted kids aren't the biological product of either adopted parent. Are they less worthy of support after a divorce too?

This would be a great analogy if a woman could adopt a child with someone other than her husband. As it stands, it's a painfully obvious attempt to set up a straw man.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2002


Red58: You just want everything to be all hunky dory... and it's not. The point is, what's good for the goose is good for the gander (is that how the saying goes?). In your suggestions, you even admit how a man can't win for losing.

*Have the test early and face your wife leaving you because of it.

Yes, that's right some women do not know who the father of their children are.

Yea... we know that. Those are the whores that are the bulk of the problem. If you apply for public assistance, you should have two choices.

1) Prove who the father is. At least go through the process of trying (whatever that may be).

2) Admit to not knowing who the father is, get the financial assistance, and agree to a "tube tie".

Doesn't the agreement to take care of a child after it's birth, as demonstrated by years of support in the early years, equal that of adoption?

Nope!
posted by Witty at 11:30 AM on December 4, 2002


No, it's shallow to think only of yourself and your wounded pride when there's a child involved. That's why the laws were written as they stand today. Many marriages with stand and get over infidelities. When there's a kid, it's even more important to work it out. Parenting is about looking beyond yourself and caring for the child.

Again, if you're so damned worried about the child being "of your flesh", get it checked right away.
posted by Red58 at 11:32 AM on December 4, 2002


This issue is starting to pick up speed lately. I bet in a few more years that there will be more legislation passed which favors the accused non bio father.

I wonder what would happen if the guy would turn around and sue the mother in a separate civil case, for mental anguish, etc.
posted by WLW at 11:33 AM on December 4, 2002


But, in my opinion, you don't deserve to be a parent if you're that shallow

Hello!?! I'm sure not all of these men even wanted to be a parent. It was the misleading and manipulative women who got them in that situation.

Men: scapegoats of the world
posted by eas98 at 11:36 AM on December 4, 2002


Red58: Two posts and not a single suggestion that it might be morally wrong to have a child with someone else while you're married. (In fact, just the opposite, the absurd suggestion that the woman is a "victim".) Any special reason why you're apparently so much more concerned with the man's behavior than the woman's?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:37 AM on December 4, 2002


Many marriages with stand and get over infidelities. When there's a kid, it's even more important to work it out.

No shit. What's the argument there?

Parenting is about looking beyond yourself and caring for the child.

No kidding. As if anyone is stating the opposite.

Your idea that a man should continue to father and financially support a child regardless of biology isn't new. It happens all the time... and will continue to do so. That's because men are capable of love and compassion as much as a woman is.

Beyond that, it can't be argued that if a man were to feel differently about a similar situation, that he is STILL obligated to continue supporting anyone that he doesn't have a natural obligation to do so.

You know, male Lions kill every damned cub in the pride when they come from another father. ,-)
posted by Witty at 11:45 AM on December 4, 2002


Witty: "Those are the whores that are the bulk of the problem"

Whoa. Besides the inflammatory name-calling:

1) The cases where a man paying support has proven not to be the father are still in the minority, let's not forget. So it's inaccurate to describe this phenomenon as "the bulk of the problem."

2) "Admit to not knowing who the father is, get the financial assistance..." See, that's the problem I was trying to point out: it's not that women are just coyly refusing to say that, it's that they have to come up with a name. So if a woman who was sleeping with more than one man at the same time (gasp! the horror! it's a good thing MEN and RICH PEOPLE never do that) finds herself broke, with child, and in need of public assistance, she's gotta single one of them out to get it. It seems to me that if the welfare system is the one requiring the naming of a father, then the burden is on the system to prove the accuracy of the woman's statement. It's simplistic to demand that she"at least go through the process of trying"to find out who the father is when, if she had resources to spare on searches and stuff, chances are she wouldn't need/couldn't qualify for public assistance anyway.
posted by hilatron at 11:52 AM on December 4, 2002


I know it's in the minority... thank god. But it's the majority of the minor? problem.

My point in part 2 is that there has to be some consequences that MEAN SOMETHING... that HAVE AN IMPACT for irresponsible sexual behavior. The rest of us don't want to pay anymore.

In many cases, women in this position are perfectly content with having the rest of us "take care of there babies" (financially). They don't feel any pressure or need to improve their situations.

Fine, but you're NOT having anymore babies. I'll gladly pay (my portion) of a hysterectomy... or whatever it need to be.

If she can't afford one or two children on her own, has no idea who or where the father's are, there she need NOT be having more unnecessary babies. Simple as that.

Yea, rich people behave the same way, but they can afford it... and I don't have to pay for it.
posted by Witty at 12:02 PM on December 4, 2002


Red58 - Parenting is about looking beyond yourself and caring for the child.

No, parenting is about looking beyond yourself and caring for your child. What you describe is caregiving--noble when voluntary, slavery when not.
posted by NortonDC at 12:07 PM on December 4, 2002


My child (genetically) = "real" child = worth support.
Not my child = useless DNA = somebody else's problem = fuck 'em (no matter how many years I've been thinking of them as mine and supposedly loving them).

What a depressing thread.
posted by languagehat at 12:16 PM on December 4, 2002 [1 favorite]


hilatron is absolutely right that women generally are required to name a father if they want public benefits. While "I don't know who the father is" is techically a valid answer, it is up to the discretion of individual caseworkers whether or not to believe the woman. Since some women do lie (i.e. say they don't know when they do) in order to shield the fathers from child support enforcement (since they don't get a penny of it anyway), most caseworkers, jaded souls that they are, will not be convinced by such denials.

But hilatron didn't mention a second reason why women seeking public asssistance will lie: the fear of violent retribution by the father. Many go on public assistance precisely because they are trying to escape an abusive partner and few are savy enough to know the magic words ("good cause") that will allow them to get out of naming the father. Forced with a choice between total destitution for themselves and their kids and lying about who the father is, some women will choose the later. Should we blame the women for this or blame the system that forces them to make such a horrible choice?
posted by boltman at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2002 [1 favorite]


languagehat, there's nothing stopping you from picking up the non-father's $1400/month payment on his behalf. Feel free to show us up as the morally stunted beings you seem to think we are by picking up the burden that's crippling that man's ability to provide for the children he did actually produce.

Or maybe you could acknowledge that no one is saying "fuck 'em," rather that it's about moving the burden from one unjustly singled out nonparent over to all of us taxpayers.
posted by NortonDC at 12:49 PM on December 4, 2002


NortonDC: I am not talking about a situation in which a man is stuck paying for a kid he's never seen; obviously, that's outrageous. I'm talking about a situation in which a man who has brought a child up as his own for years one day discovers that the kid doesn't bear his own special DNA and suddenly the kid no longer matters to him. Not "my" child? Let somebody else pay. Yes, that is saying "fuck 'em," and to someone who has thought of the man as "daddy" and never known any other. That man is indeed a morally stunted being (to use your words), and the fact that so many here think he's a beleaguered hero is depressing beyond words.
posted by languagehat at 12:59 PM on December 4, 2002 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else offended by the ease with which some here are discussing women as whores and bitches? Whether or not you agree with the behavior of the particular women involved (I don't), it's still possible to discuss the issue without resorting to gender slurs, without playing on stereotypical, misogynist emotional themes like woman-as-manipulator ... without generalizing and oversimplifying. What about the biological fathers? Are they whores, too? Why call anyone whore? [tangential scolding over]
posted by win_k at 1:09 PM on December 4, 2002


Witty, while we might like to regulate who does and does not have the capacity to reproduce; it's not likely to happen, in the U.S. at least. We place a HUGE amount of value on an individual's right to do whatever they want with their body. So, having 10 kids, voluntarily being sterilized, getting an abortion, and using birth control fall into that. Doctors can urge a person to make certain decisions; but they can't force it.

Other controversial issues factor into how many children are in the state's care, either totally through foster care or partially through public assistance. Unfortunately, our country can't seem to have a civil discussion on ways to reduce these numbers through such things as mandatory parenting classes, early sex education, contraceptives in schools with or without parental consent, adoption, abortion, or state regulated sterilization. I'm sure I've forgotten a topic or two.

So, until, and probably even after, we can reduce the numbers of children in the system, we'll continue having to provide the necessary support.
posted by onhazier at 1:15 PM on December 4, 2002


Agreed win_k
posted by pjgulliver at 1:19 PM on December 4, 2002


I don't think anyone here is saying that the man in the case is a hero languagehat. But he should have the option of backing out.

How do you know how it feels to have been lied to, misled, and taken advantage of in that way for so long?

I doubt it happens all that often, but I can very easily see how a man's feelings about a situation could completely flip-flop, beyond his control (read: not a conscious decision). I think in most cases, however, the man would still want to care for that child because a bond like that is hard to break.

But if that bond is weak to begin with (or whatever the circumstances are) the man shouldn't be anymore obligated than he already has. Hell, at least he took it that far.

win_k: bitches is your word. Search the page. We're not talking about all cases. We're talking about a case in which a woman has lied to her "mate" about being the biological parent of a child. In that case, HER behavior is wrong and the man shouldn't have to pay.

onhazier: Nice points. I hate 'em, but they're very true. :o)
posted by Witty at 1:20 PM on December 4, 2002


I'm talking about a situation in which a man who has brought a child up as his own for years one day discovers that the kid doesn't bear his own special DNA and suddenly the kid no longer matters to him. Not "my" child? Let somebody else pay. Yes, that is saying "fuck 'em," and to someone who has thought of the man as "daddy" and never known any other. That man is indeed a morally stunted being (to use your words), and the fact that so many here think he's a beleaguered hero is depressing beyond words.

I think it still depends on the situation. Let's say the woman had one-time fling while married, didn't even necessarily consider the fact that the other dude was the father. And then somewhere down the line, the DNA evidence comes out that hubby isn't the father. That situation is alot different than if a woman knows someone isn't the father, but then lies to get that person to marry them and accept the responsibility of the child. (and I'm sure there's many other situations between those two...)
posted by stifford at 1:20 PM on December 4, 2002


as someone who got caught up in the california default nightmare, i can tell you that even if you're willing to give up your dna to prove your innocence, there is very little to compell the mother and child to give up their dna -- and worst of all, any monies that may have been garnished from your wages are pretty much impossible to get back.

my lesson is, as soon as someone serves you with paperwork, get a lawyer immediately because default judgements are far more costly and no one wants to hear you say, "but i swear im not the dad, i dont even know her!"
posted by tsarfan at 1:20 PM on December 4, 2002


languagehat, that man has been living a lie. To compel him to carry any more of the financial burden than than you or I do once the truth is revealed is untenable.

If state compulsion was removed he would still have the choice to provide money to the child. To have the state mandate it removes even the opportunity to make a moral choice in that regard.
posted by NortonDC at 1:33 PM on December 4, 2002


We place a HUGE amount of value on an individual's right to do whatever they want with their body.

Not so. We place a HUGE amount of value on an individual's right to do whatever they want with their body as long as "whatever they want" meets our arbitrary requirements. Point being, we already regulate what people can do with their own bodies, how are Witty's suggestions entirely different? (not necessarily saying I agree with Witty's suggestions, I'm just sayin')
posted by biscotti at 2:02 PM on December 4, 2002


However, everyone, even absent dads, should get due process and the current systems simply are not interesting in providing it.

Well said.

It's not the kid's fault the mother lied.

It's not the guy's fault she lied, either. I deny your presumption that her child's rights or needs trump the adult male's.

Be a good human, pay the child support and act like a dad.

What utter claptrap. If you choose to be a dad, then you should live up to that responsibility, no matter what. If someone else chooses to try to force you to accept the responsibilities when you have neither reason nor obligation to do so, then there is no reason whatsoever for you to "act like a dad," unless you choose to. It is not the responsibility of random men to care for any woman's child that decides to ask him to. Unless you have a) contributed the sperm that resulted in conception or b) freely chosen to adopt or otherwise accept a portion of responsibility for a child, then you have NONE, ZERO, ZIP, ZILCH, and people's misguided attempts to enforce it in such situations are sick, sick, sick.
posted by rushmc at 2:47 PM on December 4, 2002


Be a good human, pay the child support and act like a dad.

Screw that. The bio-mother is not acting like a mother, because she's obviously more interested in income then ther child knowing their real father. The bio-father is dodging his duty (and if he doesn't know, that's again back on the mother, for not even making sure that the child knows the real father)

But, then there's the $$$-father. And everybody is more interested in the 'interest of the child' then whats fair and right.

After DNA testing, if the father/child has a bond, then the father probably will help out somehow with $$, but he shouldn't be required to. If he's not interested, then the child is probably better off not having someone forced into their lifes that doesn't want to be there.
posted by dirt at 3:10 PM on December 4, 2002


Screw that. The bio-mother is not acting like a mother, because she's obviously more interested in income then ther child knowing their real father. The bio-father is dodging his duty (and if he doesn't know, that's again back on the mother, for not even making sure that the child knows the real father)

But, then there's the $$$-father. And everybody is more interested in the 'interest of the child' then whats fair and right.

After DNA testing, if the father/child has a bond, then the father probably will help out somehow with $$, but he shouldn't be required to. If he's not interested, then the child is probably better off not having someone forced into their lifes that doesn't want to be there.



Awesome post!
posted by WLW at 9:23 PM on December 4, 2002


I doubt it happens all that often

This article refers to a study that suggested this might be the case for 10% of children. Sounds a bit high, but the article doesn't say which study it was.

A similar story from the BBC in '99.
posted by shoos at 10:05 PM on December 4, 2002


The child support system is a terrible experiment, bad social policy and worse economics. I'd like to see it gone, and replaced with a reasonable minimum living standard for all children, regardless of who your parents were, or were not. More 'necessary goods and services for all', less 'cash for the lucky, pain for the unlucky'.

The major flaw in the child support system, which causes the problem we're discussing here, is that it is using 'biological male parent' as a strict definition of father. The way I see it, your father is the man who raised you, who cared for you and about you, with whom you have an emotional bond. You might not have a father. You might have several. It's likely that your biological male parent is your father, but it isn't necessarily so. Some guy who spent a slippery half-hour with your mother and then racked off somewhere else is not your father. All you inherited from him, and all you have the right to expect from him is your genes. Your father, on the other hand, is your father for better or worse, and it's worse we're talking about here.

Child support is yet another product of the user pays mentality, eagerly pushed along by a spiteful mutation of feminist politics that basically resents the male sexual role and decrees that men must be made to suffer until their suffering in life is equal to that of women. If a woman is equal to a man, the idea that the two can have sex for pleasure and one can walk away and the other's life is drastically changed (a simple biological fact, neither good nor evil in itself), is an affront to those who believe that gender equality is not 'just' an equality of moral worth, but should be a physical equality and equality of life experience as well. Both of these things, greedhead socioeconomic policy and grievance feminism, are bad. It is no surprise that their bastard child is worse.

So I don't have a lot of sympathy for the father who discovers that his child is not biologically related to him, and tries to get out of his fatherly obligations on this stupid, shallow pretext. Perhaps he (and not the child, or the mother) should have a legal cause of action against the child's biological male parent (and not the child or the mother), since that guy caused him to incur expense, but on the other hand, that guy also made our suffering hero a father, something he may well not have otherwise had.

I have a little more sympathy for the one-night-stander who discovers that no child actually came of their shared moment, that it was due to some other man that the child was born ... but I don't think it matters whether he was or wasn't the biological father, I don't think these guys should have to pay directly at all. They get no more or less benefit out of the child's existence than the rest of society. Even the continuation of a given set of genes is something that society will suffer or benefit from, not any individual who also has some of that set.

I see no point whatsoever in condemnation of the mother, although I agree that her actions, being dishonest, were wrong. Dishonesty is always wrong, but there's usually no point in punishing it. What good could possibly come of condemning her? Making her see the consequences of her wrongdoing? Please, she's been living with those consequences all the child's life. Teaching her not to do it again? As if. Punishment-based learning barely even works on animals. Why people persist in trying to apply it to each other is an awful, awful mystery.

My sympathies are with the child, and the child needs support. Which, again, I would prefer be supplied at the expense of society (the real 'user' of children, because children are present and future members of society, and we all gain or suffer from their presence) than at the expense of basically randomly-selected men. So I don't want to see the child support system go until it is replaced by something better.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:39 AM on December 5, 2002


I don't think anyone here is saying that the man in the case is a hero languagehat. But he should have the option of backing out.

Why? If he raised the child for the first 10 years of her life, why does DNA trump his parental obligation to her? Once you willingly accept the role of parent to a child who is yours -- biologically, legally, or otherwise -- that isn't a bond any decent person would seek to escape on a technicality. The 10 years in which he was her father should outweigh all other considerations, and I think a court should force him to continue supporting the child who he has willingly raised as his own.
posted by rcade at 8:01 AM on December 5, 2002


Once you willingly accept the role of parent to a child

So you believe that all choices that people make should be judged equal to informed decisions? Wow, what a keg o' worms THAT opens up!
posted by rushmc at 11:14 PM on December 5, 2002


I'm pretty durn liberal, and my volumes of posts back this up, but I have to ask:

Why do we even have a child support system (other than it allowing the state to avoid using as many tax dollars to support all the state's residents)? It seems to me it's a "that's life" situation: women currently and should continue to get the singular reproductive choice of abortion or gestation, and along with it should be the only ones compelled to bear the singular responsibility of caring for that child if they choose to have it. Having a two parent home, is a sweet deal- but not necessary (and we aren't even discussing two parent homes being compelled- in many cases, the father isn't being asked to help raise the child, but only being hit up for his cash). "Biological" mother and father are even less necessary, and I say this as someone who never knew my birth parents yet received a damned decent upbringing as an adopted child (tho' some MeFites might disagree with how I turned out :) ). I kinda agree with aeschenkarnos that the "father" in your life, if you have one, is not necessarily the sperm donor.

Few would support me if I stated that no woman should be allowed to have an abortion unless she gets the consent of the biological father; so why, if the biological father (or presumed biological father) has no say in terminating the potentially 9-month pregnancy, should he be compelled to bear the potentially 18-year burden of financially aiding the child?

I just have never been able to reconcile "women's right to choose" with "compelled child support" even if you aren't living with the child- heck, especially when you're not living with the child. We live in the 21st century; single moms, or for that matter single dads, should be able to support themselves, and if they are unable to do so then either they need to focus on that, and not on naming men to pay their way, or we need to figure out why our society makes single parentage so difficult for so many.
posted by hincandenza at 1:46 AM on December 6, 2002


why, if the biological father (or presumed biological father) has no say in terminating the potentially 9-month pregnancy, should he be compelled to bear the potentially 18-year burden of financially aiding the child?

Because, unfortunately, people do not decide these matters based upon logic and justice, but upon untamed emotion.
posted by rushmc at 8:47 AM on December 6, 2002


What if there was a situation where two 20 year old college students are sleeping together and the condom broke. The woman had previously told the man that she did not want to have a child yet, and would have an abortion rather than a child.

So, condom breaks. The woman has a choice ahead of her, to have the child or not. The man has no choice. Even if he is dead set against having the child, and has logical arguments for this position (finishing college, etc) if his partner decides to have the child, he is responsible monetarily for that child for the next 18 years.

I think men should be granted an "opt out" clause within the first trimester or something. If the man is against having the kid he can sign a form stating such. By signing said form he absolves himself of financial responsibility. He also absolves himself from all measures of custody. That child will never be his, even in part. He can never bring suit to have visiting rights, etc.

I think such a system would be more fair than our current system.
posted by pjgulliver at 12:12 PM on December 6, 2002


So you believe that all choices that people make should be judged equal to informed decisions? Wow, what a keg o' worms THAT opens up!

I'm coming back to this discussion late, but I have so little understanding of your point that I have to respond. I'm saying that once a child is born, people have an opportunity to claim (or reject) the role as father of that child.

It's like a contract with the kid -- "I am your father; you can count on me to be there for you." -- and has nothing to do with DNA. If a young child believes you to be his or her father, and you encourage this and provide for the child's needs, you should be in that relationship for life. The guy who thinks less of his 10-year-old daughter because of a paternity lie is, like far too many fathers in the world, a self-centered louse who cares more about his personal needs than those of the child who was unlucky enough to get him as a parent.
posted by rcade at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2002


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