With the wide availability of affordable paternity test kits online and at the local drugstore, more and more men today are making the choice to find out if the children they’ve been supporting are truly theirs. There’s no doubt about it: DNA testing has been a game-changer in the child-support landscape. The she said/he said arguments about who fathered a child are now completely irrelevant, right? Not necessarily.
First: Some Paternity Test Stats
The AABB (American Association of Blood Banks), which accredits DNA testing labs, released its findings about paternity testing in a landmark 1999 report. The report states that 30 percent of DNA paternity tests nationwide turn out negative.
The tidal wave of outrage at this report’s findings started out as a rather small ripple, but has grown bigger and bigger in the 17 years since . . . and with good reason. As more men have questioned paternity they are finding that, despite DNA evidence disproving a biological connection and that paternity fraud is recognized and handled as a criminal offense, the courts are not always willing to let these men off the financial hook.
What’s been happening in Court
For years, singer Ne-Yo, of California, paid child support to an ex-girlfriend for a boy she claimed was his. A DNA paternity test eventually proved he wasn’t the biological father. But because the state of California considers any man to be the father if he puts himself out there as one, the mother can come after that man financially as if he were the biological father (Jones).
In 2010, the California Supreme Court refused to review a tough court decision for homeless man Hari Wilburn. Way back in 1991, Wilburn was named as the father of a five-year-old child, even though he was never properly informed by the state. He was subsequently ordered to pay child support. Despite the fact that a 2008 paternity test excluded him as a possible father and that he never acted as father to the child, the court stated that the mother was entitled to back child-support payments in the tens of thousands of dollars (Crouch). You can read the opinion here.
Pennsylvania resident Mike L. was the subject of a heart-wrenching New York Times article back in 2005, when the tidal wave of paternity fraud awareness was really starting to grow. Mike divorced his wife, the mother of his daughter, when he discovered an affair and a paternity test proved the child wasn’t his. He paid child support and nurtured his parental relationship for years even though he was not his daughter’s biological father. He continued to dutifully pay support until his ex decided to marry the man whom she claimed was the biological father. Mike filed to end his financial obligations to his daughter since the biological father would now be in the household. He ultimately discovered he loved the girl so much he couldn’t deny legal paternity and risk losing all contact with her (Padawer).
What Can Men Do to Protect Against Paternity Fraud?
Padawer’s article mentions that state statues and case law vary widely, but that many judges-as is evident in the cases mentioned above-decide that men (whether they are married to the mother or not) must continue supporting their children, no matter what the results of a paternity test may show. If a man has any doubts whatsoever about whether or not he is the father, he should consult with an attorney to determine how best to proceed. Unmarried men may choose not to sign an acknowledgment of paternity or birth certificate and let the determination of paternity be made through the courts.
The Bottom Line
Paternity fraud is real, but society and the courts are demonstrating that the very definition of fatherhood is changing. The emotional ties between a man and the child are just as important as the biological relationship, and both connections have weight in legal paternity decisions, including child support. Meanwhile, do you have doubts about paternity? Don’t wait: Get a paternity test NOW.
What do you think about this controversial topic? Share in the comments!
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Crouch, Harry. “California Men’s Centers, San Diego.” California Mens Centers San Diego RSS. California Men’s Centers, 29 July 2010. Web. 19 Jan. 2016. <http://www.californiamenscenters.org/wordpress/?cat=8>.
Hertz, Frederick. “How to Establish Paternity.” Nolo.com. Nolo, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2016. <http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/living-together-book/chapter7-4.html>.
Jones, Deja. “The Harsh Realities Of Paternity Fraud.” MadameNoire RSS. Moguldom Media Group, 12 Aug. 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2016. <http://madamenoire.com/577695/are-you-the-father-paternity-fraud-black-men/>.
Padawer, Ruth. “Who Knew I Was Not the Father?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2009. Web. 19 Jan. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/magazine/22Paternity-t.html?pagewanted=all>.
So many important decisions rest on DNA results, and participants are often understandably on edge during the process. A common question in paternity testing is, “Can a paternity test be wrong?” Once a report is issued, the results are not always what participants expected (or hoped), and that’s when this question usually arises. So can a paternity test be “wrong?” Here are some answers.
When Paternity Fraud or Father-Identification Mistakes Happen
According to World Net Daily, 30% of positive paternity claims in the United States are thought to be wrong. This means when a mother names a man as the biological father of her child, up to 1 out of 3 of those claims are incorrect, either because the mother is trying to commit paternity fraud or she’s simply mistaken.
What Does Paternity Fraud Look Like?
Here are some ways paternity-test results can be manipulated so that they don’t indicate the correct biological father:
- The mother can submit the DNA for a known child of the possible father as the DNA of the child in question in order to get a positive result
- The possible father submits his buddy’s DNA as his own in order to get a negative result
- After DNA is collected from the right people, the mother or possible father tampers with the mailing envelopes and submits DNA for different people
Can’t the Lab Catch Fraud?
In some cases, fraud or mistakes are easy to catch. If a child is supposed to be male, but a female’s sample is submitted, for example; in these cases, an accredited lab will suspend testing right away and start asking questions and/or request new samples. But the lab can’t always catch fraud, especially for at-home tests. This is because DNA collection is in the hands of the customer and is not supervised by a disinterested witness. This is also the reason why reports for at-home tests are not court-admissible results: because there’s no way to verify whether the DNA the lab is given actually belongs to who the customer says it does.
Example: For at-home testing, the lab is answering this question: Is Possible Father A the biological father of Child A? If DNA for someone else is submitted as if it belonged to Possible Father A, then the answer may be very different that what it should have been, couldn’t it? The results from the lab are actually scientifically correct based on the samples provided, but if DNA for someone other than Possible Father A’s was submitted—which is fraud— the report could show a false negative for him even if he really is the father.
SOLUTION: When doing an at-home paternity test, we recommend that all participants witness each other swabbing their cheeks and the child’s cheeks and sealing the swabs in the paper envelope. It’s also important to go to the post office as a group to drop off the mailing envelope, thereby preventing any post-DNA-collection tampering. If participants live in different states and there is reason to believe someone might want to monkey around with results, it might be wise to consider choosing a legal, witnessed test instead.
When Possible Fathers are Close Biological Relatives
When two alleged fathers are close biological relatives, they share a relatively large percentage of the same DNA.
- Father/Son: 50%
- Brothers: 25%
- Uncle/Nephew: 25%
- Grandfather/Grandson: 25%
Because of the shared DNA, when testing the minimum 16 DNA markers for paternity (HomeDNA tests a minimum of 20), there is a possibility that the man who is not the possible father could match the child being tested at every location. This scenario can create what is called a “false positive” result.
SOLUTION: Ideally, both possible fathers who share a close genetic link should test. But when only one man is available or willing to test, it is absolutely essential that the person ordering the test let the lab know before testing starts that there is another possible father who is a close relative of the man being tested and what the biological relationship is between the two men. This way, the lab can take this information into account as it does its analysis and generates a probability of paternity, plus it can test additional genetic markers if necessary in order to get conclusive and accurate results.
Why It’s Important to Choose the Right Lab for Testing
Like any other business, some labs are better than others. If you want to ensure results are correct for your paternity test, be sure to select one—like ours!—that maintains the highest standards of accreditation in the industry. Being accredited means that the lab’s practices and processes are held accountable by outside independent entities that come in regularly to do inspections and make sure everything’s kept on the up and up. Our lab is actually the only one to have every paternity test performed twice—by independent teams—to ensure complete accuracy.
Our home paternity test has been a leader in high-quality affordable DNA paternity testing since 1993 and is the most popular choice offered at retail stores from coast to coast, including CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart. With a test this important, it just makes good sense to go with the best.