The American Association of Blood Banks released findings of paternity testing in a landmark report. The report states that 30% of DNA paternity tests nationwide turn out to be negative.
As more parents question the paternity of their children, they are finding that, despite DNA evidence disproving a biological connection, courts are not always willing to let men off the financial hook. Paternity fraud is recognized and punished as a criminal offense.
What is Paternity Fraud?
Paternity is one of the major family law issues that frequently come up in cases involving child custody, child visitation, and child support.
In these types of cases, proving paternity is often a necessary requirement for a party to receive a ruling in their favor. This includes making the biological father pay child support or granting child custody or visitation rights to one or both of the parties.
Paternity fraud, on the other hand, refers to any instance of fraud that is connected to a court-mandated paternity issue. For instance, a party may engage in fraudulent behavior to either avoid the legal duties associated with paternity or to obtain benefits from a party by establishing their paternity (e.g., child support payments).
For example, when contesting paternity, the child’s alleged father may make certain misrepresentations regarding their relationship to the child or with the child’s mother. They may claim they never had relations with the child’s mother or that they are not the biological father of the child.
Another example may be when the mother of a child has an affair with someone who is not her husband and gets pregnant. The mother then may claim that the child belongs to the husband when in reality, the other person they had an affair with is the child’s biological father.
Suppose the couple files afterward for divorce, and the husband is still under the impression that they are the biological father. In that case, they will be held liable for child support unless they can prove another party is the actual father.
In either of the above examples, it is considered illegal to make such misrepresentations before a court or on court documents. Thus, if paternity fraud can be proven, it can create serious legal issues.
What Are Some Common Types of Paternity Fraud?
Some common types of paternity fraud include:
- Lying on a court application or during a court interview about the child’s actual father;
- Tampering with paternity DNA test results;
- Forcing someone to sign paperwork, such as a child’s birth certificate, to prove that they are the father when in fact they are not; and
- Making any misrepresentations after or during pregnancy (i.e., prenatal paternity test).
Additionally, it is important to note that paternity fraud can also involve other parties aside from the parents or the alleged parents of the child. For instance, if a doctor or other clinical professional is found to have tampered with the paternity test results, they may face legal consequences as well.
Similarly, any witnesses who are called to testify in court during a paternity hearing can face legal ramifications if they falsify or lie on the stand while giving their testimonies.
What are the Consequences of Paternity Fraud?
Several consequences can stem from a conviction of paternity fraud. One of those consequences involves being issued a contempt order. A contempt of court order means that the person misbehaved in such a way that it prevented the judge from doing their job, which includes allowing them to administer justice properly.
For example, in a paternity fraud case, the judge may hold a person in contempt for lying or falsifying information about the paternity test. When this occurs, the judge may issue a contempt order, which can result in criminal charges. This is especially true if the person’s conduct amounted to a major violation. The person will then be liable for paying criminal fines and possibly having to serve a prison sentence.
Although contempt orders are one of the only ways a person might hold the other party responsible for committing paternity fraud, they can have far-reaching consequences.
For instance, if a mother commits paternity fraud and receives a contempt order for their behavior, not only may they lose the right to collect child support from the other party, but they also will have to endure having criminal charges on their public record.
Additionally, while the victim of paternity fraud will not recover any previously paid child support, they are allowed to seek out the child’s actual biological father and sue them for reimbursement instead.
How Common is Paternity Fraud?
Paternity fraud is fairly common in the United States and across the world. Recent research indicates that one out of every twenty-five men worldwide will raise another man’s child and not know it.
Why is Establishing Paternity Important?
Establishing paternity is important because it gives a child the rights to:
- Social Security benefits from a disabled or deceased parent
- Veteran’s benefits
- Life insurance and health insurance benefits
How Does Paternity Fraud Impact Child Support?
A court may order a father who is found not to be the biological parent of a child to continue paying child support if:
- Continuing child support payments serve the best interests of the child.
- The child still needs support, and the court believes the child may require government assistance if child support payments were to stop.
- The father has supported the child for an extended period of time and has acted as the child’s father.
How Can Men Protect Themselves Against Paternity Fraud?
State statutes and case laws about paternity fraud vary widely. If you are a man who has any doubts about whether or not you are the father of a child, you should consult an attorney to determine how to best proceed. Some unmarried men choose not to sign an acknowledgment of paternity or birth certificate and instead let the courts decide paternity.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Paternity Fraud Issues?
If you suspect that your partner has committed paternity fraud, you should seek a DNA test immediately. DNA tests can be ordered online, but an experienced lawyer may advise you on which tests will stand up in court. Parents looking for more information about child support rules should research their state’s specific child support guidelines.
Paternity fraud is highly discouraged conduct that a person should refrain from doing because it can result in very serious legal issues. It can also affect how a child is brought up through to adulthood, which may negatively impact their lives in ways that go beyond their childhood.
Thus, you may want to consider hiring a local family lawyer if you need assistance with any type of issues involving paternity and paternity fraud.
An experienced family lawyer will give you legal advice specific to your situation and can help you prepare a case if necessary. An attorney can also provide representation during any paternity hearings or meetings and may help to ensure that your legal rights are being sufficiently protected.
Remember, in cases that involve children and family law issues, it is not only your life that you need to think about, but also your child’s, as well.