DNA Paternity Testing and Child Support

Published: 28th June 2006
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Part One of a two-part series about the legal implications of DNA paternity testing



While laws currently vary among states, one common thread connecting cases involving custody and child support is the need to establish proof-of-relationship. In the former case, the individual seeking custody must prove his relationship to the child; in the latter instance, proof-of-paternity is considered to be the burden of the child-support claimant. With historical policy relying more upon common law, and "reasonable" expectations, the science behind DNA testing has landed a solid blow to the gut of established practices for accepting paternity claims.



Paternity testing and Child Support



Today, increasing numbers of incredulous fathers are meeting the shocking realization that one—or more—of "their" children aren't really theirs. Such startling news invariably presents a level of psychological trauma that few men are prepared to confront; in a surprisingly large number of cases, the claimed father realizes that, on top of everything, he has been defrauded into providing years—and perhaps tens-of-thousands of dollars worth—of unjustified child support payments.



Consider the case of California father Bert Riddick. The Los Angeles Times reports that as he was preparing for a business trip in 1991, Riddick's then fiancée uncovered a court summons in which his ex-girlfriend had named him as the father of her newborn child. Having been unable to attend the hearing because of his employment obligation, he returned to learn that his wages were being garnished; the traditional "guilty-unless-proven-innocent" policy had essentially pegged Riddick as the father by default.



Consequences of Fraudulent Child-support Claims



The life of Riddick's new family rapidly descended toward financial ruin. Shackled with the court-ordered wage garnishments that followed him from one job to the next, he was soon unable to support his now growing family. With the birth of her second child, Riddick's wife was forced into welfare; his car was repossessed; his family was evicted from their rental home.



The Riddicks were now crammed into a tiny section of a family member's home, the children now sharing a single small room. Bert Riddick's life—and the life of his family—had been turned upside-down, by what a simple DNA home test would ultimately prove to be a fraudulent claim of paternity.



The $80,000 Lie



Not only did Michigan native Doug Richardson pay roughly $80,000 in fraudulent child support over a period of 15 years, but, according to the Detroit News, he also claims to have been forced to support the true father, both during—and after—the man's relationship with Richardson's ex-wife.



"This has torn me up for 15 years," said Richardson. "I've had to file bankruptcy. I have back taxes. It has destroyed my life."



Now he's looking to fight back.



Richardson, with the help of DADS of Michigan founder Murray Davis, is lobbying for support of legislation that would offer relief, including requiring courts to nullify child support orders, where aabb DNA tests have proven paternity fraud.



Paternity Tests Help Cement Legal Support



Such a law would add Michigan—where more than a quarter of 2005's nearly 10,000 out-of-wedlock DNA paternity tests were negative—to the list of at least a dozen states with similar legal protections. Georgia law, for instance, allows for termination of child support obligations for men with proof of non-paternity. Maryland has abolished the time limit for paternity challenges—a measure under consideration in many other states.



The fact is that DNA paternity testing is becoming an integral legal component in the realm of paternity claims throughout the United States.



Ending the Ceaseless Wondering



Fortunately, unlike putative fathers 15 years ago, men facing paternity claims today have an extremely simple, and incredibly reliable, means for avoiding the strife that has plagued families like the Richardsons and the Riddicks. A quick, confidential and reliable DNA Home Paternity test is almost always the difference between wondering and knowing; usually, such tests also prove to be the difference between total despair and lasting relief.



Righting Previous Wrongs



Obviously, the good news extends beyond individuals facing new paternity claims. Men's rights advocates have exerted pressure in recent years, helping to push many states in the direction of legislation that would rectify situations of past paternity fraud cases. Whereas until quite recently, proof of non-paternity did little to absolve victims of such deception, many states have enacted—or are in process of enacting—statutes aimed at righting past wrongs; especially where finances are concerned. In other words, today's cheap DNA paternity testing could conceivably release a defrauded father from the unfair burden of child support payments, on even a decade old paternity claim.



Read Part Two for more information on how paternity testing technology is being used in child support and custody cases. For a free paternity test kit, go to GeneTree.



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