IDENTIGENE has been working to increase awareness of paternity fraud in America whereby a woman allows a man to assume he is the biological father, even though he is not.
It’s an issue with potentially serious consequences for everyone involved, from financial obligations to custody arrangements to emotional attachments.
The campaign to raise awareness of paternity fraud reached millions of people and was conducted through advertising, outreach to news organizations, social media, and the efforts of Dennis Fuller, a Dallas, Texas attorney who has championed this cause. ‘In my professional experience, the truth about paternity leads to a positive outcome for everyone involved,’ Fuller says.
One Paternity Fraud Story
Mr. Fuller provides the example of his client, Barry Wallace. Mr. Wallace was sentenced to prison for nonpayment of child support. His wife sought legal assistance and DNA testing, eventually proving paternity fraud and freeing her husband from jail. The mother of the little girl had a brief encounter with Wallace and had for years wanted to stop the child support, enabling her husband to officially adopt the little girl and assume financial obligation. Disestablishing paternity was a positive for all parties.
The state of Texas offers a case study for tackling the issue of paternity fraud. Texas law had long held that once the court officially identified someone as the father, that designation could not be changed-even if DNA testing proved he was not the father. Accordingly, men identified as the father were also obligated to pay child support, which can be as high as 40% of a man’s income. On May 12, 2011, the Texas Family Code was amended. The new law created a window of time, or statute of limitations, for men previously adjudicated to be ‘the father’ to petition the court for DNA testing. If DNA testing proved a man not the biological father, the court would terminate future child support payments.
A deadline of September 1, 2012, was set for men to come forward to petition for DNA testing. Looking ahead, the new law allows one calendar year to petition the court for DNA testing when a man suspects he is a victim of paternity fraud. If a man suspects he is not the father, he must notify the court and request a DNA paternity test within 12 months of the day he discovers he is not the father. If DNA testing proves a man is not the father, the obligation for future child support can be voided. If the 12-month deadline is missed, DNA does not matter and a man will be held to these future financial obligations.
Paternity Fraud: Some Stats
According to SupportKids.com, more than 8 million children in the United States do not receive any of the child support they are owed. The national unpaid child support balance exceeds $106 billion. Penalties for owing child support include wage garnishment and jail. In some cases, men are punished for not paying support for a child later determined not biologically related. The amount of unpaid child support due to paternity fraud is not known. ‘IDENTIGENE processes thousands of paternity tests every month and about one-third come back excluded, meaning the alleged father is not the biological father. We know paternity fraud is real and its effects can be life altering,’ says IDENTIGENE Executive Director, Steve Smith.
Disestablishing paternity varies by state. Some attorneys advise men who father a child outside of marriage to do a DNA paternity test before signing a birth certificate. If you suspect paternity fraud, IDENTIGENE suggests contacting a family law attorney to discuss next steps.
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