November 28, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I’ve often written that DNA testing should be routinely performed on children at birth to insure that the man who’s been named as the father and who believes he’s the father actually is the father. Doing so would entail some cost at first, but the benefits would be far greater. Routine genetic testing would cut the incidence of paternity fraud to essentially zero. That would mean that all children would know to a certainty who their father is and every father would know his children. There would be no lawsuits to clog the courts regarding paternity, no medical errors based on the assumption of paternity, no biological dads appearing years later in the child’s life to claim their rights and no men who’d played the role of father unexpectedly exiting that life. Plus, as a matter of principle, state governments and Washington would no longer be in the business of abetting a mother’s fraud against two men and a child.
Here’s the excellent Dianna Thompson of Women Against Paternity Fraud to tell the story better than I can. She does so in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS requested public comment on its procedures for establishing paternity and the letter is Thompson’s response. It’s a zinger.
As I’ve said many times, as things stand now, the term “paternity establishment” is misleading at best, suggesting as it does that it correctly identifies the father of the child in question. All too often, it does no such thing. Indeed, the process is so arbitrary that I’ve been moved to recommend that, instead of jumping through the legal hoops to “establish paternity,” we simply select men at random and inform them that they are now fathers. If that sounds like a mockery, it’s no more so than telling a Detroit man that he owes years of back child support for a child everyone acknowledges isn’t his and about whom he’s never had an opportunity to contest the state’s claim of paternity.
The fact is that states don’t much care if they tag the correct man or not. What they care about is tagging someone and, once they have, he finds it well-nigh impossible to assert his non-paternity. That’s how state child support enforcement offices work.
Thompson is clear on the subject.
However, a program that fails to screen out false paternity establishments scores a temporary statistical victory for states seeking TANF funds, but causes enormous enforcement burdens and emotional costs to the victims of false establishments.
Hospitals do a good job in making sure that mothers are connected to the right baby. Footprints are taken, identity bands are placed on both mom and baby, and nurseries are staffed and guarded by twenty-four-hour security.
Just as technology exists to protect mothers, DNA testing exists to protect men. But no in-hospital paternity acknowledgment program is geared toward providing protection for men. Anyone familiar with in-hospital paternity establishment programs knows that the programs are not geared toward verifying that the right man is identified as the biological father.
Right man, wrong man, it’s all the same to the states who just want the money the federal government so bountifully provides for every “establishment” of “paternity.” Interestingly, there is no punishment of any kind for establishing paternity wrongly. No one loses their job, no agency is fined. When it happens, business proceeds as usual.
And it turns out that paternity (whether false or true) is easy to establish and HHS knows it. They know just how to get a man to waive his rights without his knowledge, and they’re ready, willing and able to do so.
Instead, the programs are openly geared toward exploiting the emotional vulnerability of a man who has come to the hospital solely because he believes that the baby who is there...is his. The man's presence in the hospital to be with "his" baby is called the "magic moment" and the child support bureaucracy openly exploits it as the best opportunity to get a paternity acknowledgment with no questions asked.
As explained by the United States Department of Health and Human Services:
- The Experience of States indicates a father of a child born to an unmarried mother is more likely to be present and to admit paternity during the time surrounding the birth than later on…
- We are not requiring genetic testing for all births as a means of preventing fraudulent acknowledgments…
- Furthermore, we are not requiring hospital-based programs to offer the option of genetic testing as part of hospital-based programs.
See what I mean?
And once a man signs the “voluntary” acknowledgement of paternity form, he has no way to back out even if he later figures out via DNA testing that he’s not the dad.
Men come to the hospital solely because they are led to believe that the baby is theirs. They are proud, excited, trusting, and will sign the paternity acknowledgment form without first demanding a confirmation DNA test. From that moment on, actual paternity becomes irrelevant, and the paternity fraud victim is trapped.
Men being asked to sign a paternity acknowledgement form should be informed that by signing the form they are acknowledging that they are the father...and if later they discover that they are not the biological father through DNA testing they will still be responsible for child support until the child turns 18.
Thompson goes on to demand that no hospital should be allowed to ask a man to sign a paternity acknowledgement form until DNA testing has verified that he’s actually the dad. She further demands that no state should receive federal funds for paternity establishment without that verification.
I concur. I also think HHS should fund a pilot project to be conducted over a period of, say, a year, in certain hospitals in various parts of the country. The project should test every man who believes he’s the father of a baby born to a single mother. Those kids need to have their paternity established and a pilot program would accurately demonstrate the magnitude of the problem
Our current approach to paternity fraud is untenable. In an age of fast and accurate genetic testing, there is no excuse for allowing non-fathers to believe they’re dads, fathers to believe they’re not and kids not knowing their actual fathers. Everyone will be better off if we get it right from the start. We have the technology to do so. We should use it.
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