Australia: Queensland Judge Punishes Paternity Fraud

February 13, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

A Queensland, Australia judge has punished a mother for falsely naming a man as the father of her child and attempting to get child support from him. Read about it here (Herald Sun, 2/12/14). It seems the unnamed man and woman had a casual affair for about two years. He, of course, was unaware of whether she was having relations with other men and, if so, whom.

Apparently she was, but when it came time for her to give birth in 2012, she confidently informed hospital personnel that the man was the father. She continued maintaining the fiction that there could be no other father, despite knowing there could be. The woman applied for child support with the Child Support Registrar, naming the man as the father.

But the man contested paternity, obtaining a court order for genetic testing of himself and the child. That revealed that another man was the child’s biological father.

So Judge Paul Cronin assessed legal fees and the costs of genetic testing against the mother.

Justice Paul Cronin said the man “unnecessarily had to go through the process to establish the outcome".

The man then applied to the Family Court for a declaration that he was not the father of the child and that he should not be assessed for any child support costs as he was not the parent.

Justice Cronin made the orders on January 14, also ordering the woman to pay the parentage test procedure and report costs.

After hearing that the man earned $1360 a week and the woman was supporting the child on a low income, the judge still ordered her to pay $1000 towards his legal costs.

“The (man) has incurred legal costs to some extent unnecessarily,’’ Justice Cronin said.

He said the legal proceedings could have been avoided if the woman had made earlier concessions about paternity.

There’s no law against paternity fraud in Australia, but Judge Cronin acted well within his power to discipline litigants in his court. So hopefully, this case will serve as a lesson to future mothers who think it’s acceptable for them to simply decide whom they want to tag as the father irrespective of biological reality.

Judge Cronin alluded to one key fact about paternity fraud that should form the basis for laws prohibiting it and requiring women to inform all possible biological fathers of the fact of a pregnancy and the possibility they may be the dad. After all, in this case as in just about all others, the woman knows with whom she had sex, but each individual man knows only about his relationship with her. Therefore, the law should place the onus of establishing paternity on the one person with all the pertinent information, i.e. the mother. As soon as she learns she’s pregnant, she should be required by law to inform all men with whom she had sex, at or near the time of conception, of their potential paternity. That way, either prior to birth or immediately thereafter, genetic testing can be done and the correct father identified.

Under such a legal regime, we’d have no more paternity fraud (at least not legal paternity fraud), no man would be identified as the father who’s not, no child would bond with a man who’s not his dad, no man would pay to support a child who’s not his and, perhaps most important of all, every father would have the opportunity to bond with his child from birth.

That last is one thing that the article doesn’t mention and apparently Judge Cronin didn’t either. This child is now over a year old and, as far as we know, his actual father has yet to be identified. Neither the father his nor child has had an opportunity to get to know and attach to the other and all because the child’s mother was imbued with the legal authority to make it so.

It shouldn’t be that way and in a world of gender equality in parent/child relationships, it wouldn’t be. This case won’t change much in Australia, but Judge Cronin at least acknowledged – and did something about – obvious wrongdoing. He unambiguously told this mother and all others who might be listening, that they don’t have complete power over who shoulders the burdens of fatherhood.

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