Paternity Fraud Begs the Question: Who’s the Daddy?

by Diane Dimond on February 23, 2015

The Justice System Has to be Fair - to Everyone

The Justice System Has to be Fair – to Everyone

There is a lot of unfairness in the world.  The American justice system stands ready to counter that, right?

Not so fast.

When it comes to men and allegations of paternity women have a decidedly upper hand. Whatever the woman claims in court most often becomes fact. And once a court has ruled on paternity and established child support it can be next to impossible change. Not even if a DNA test excludes the man from any possibility of parenthood.

Across the country men of all ages, colors and social status have been ordered by family courts to pay child support for children that aren’t theirs.

In one infamous case in New Mexico a man shelled out years of support for a daughter who never actually existed. His deceitful ex-wife simply told the court there was such a child and no proof was ever requested.

National Family Justice Association Pres, Davis

National Family Justice Association Pres, Davis

Some victims of paternity fraud find out the truth while they are still in long term marriages. In Michigan, Murray Davis discovered that two of his three children were actually fathered by his best friend. But by that time the kids were nearly teenagers, well past the legal deadline for Davis to contest paternity in that state.

Carnell Smith, of Atlanta, Georgia discovered that the daughter he’d been raising with his girlfriend wasn’t his. But the courts didn’t want to hear it. Smith was stuck. Like Davis, this falsely identified “father” began to lobby for changes in his state’s law.

Smith started a group called U.S. Citizens Against Paternity Fraud and got Georgia to join Ohio in being one of only two states that allow an unlimited time for a man to challenge paternity as long as the child support case is open.

Smith Lobbies for Changes in the Law

Smith Lobbies for Changes in the Law

Many states require a man to file a challenge before the child’s third birthday. The federal law gives a man just 60 days.

“That’s pretzel logic, isn’t it?” Smith told me. Don’t tell a man the truth, then penalize him for not correcting the record fast enough.  Some men don’t realize what’s happened, Smith said, until they are underwater with child support payments and, “then have no money to pay an attorney to fight for him.”

Also working against the wronged man is the Bradley Amendment, a federal law that prohibits state judges from retroactively modifying child support orders.

None of it sounds fair, does it? But it happens all the time. Judicial reasoning ranges from: it’s in the best interest of the child,  to: he didn’t challenge the paternity claim immediately.

Carnell Alexander of Detroit has been under a court ordered cloud for nearly 30 years.

Alexander Still Fights After Nearly 3 Decades

Alexander Still Fights After Nearly 3 Decades

In 1987, his ex-girlfriend applied for welfare to support her new baby. She put Alexander’s name down as the father even though he wasn’t. A process server swore he served Alexander with papers demanding he appear in court so when Alexander didn’t show up he was declared a “Deadbeat Dad.”

Truth is, Alexander was never notified. He was in prison at the time on an unrelated charge stemming from a youthful crime. He didn’t find out about his problem until a traffic stop in 1991.

The mother in question now admits, “Everything is my fault.” She told a Detroit TV station, “He shouldn’t have to pay it at all. I want everything to go away for him so he can get on with his life.”

Despite the mother’s lies to the state, despite a definitive DNA test excluding Alexander as the father, he still owes $30,000 in support for, as he puts it, “A child that I did not father… that I was not involved in raising.” He adds, “It is not fair.”

Don't We Need to be Sure Before a Court Order?

Don’t We Need to be Sure Before a Court Order?

There’s that phrase again. It is not fair.

Murray Davis, who established the National Family Justice Association after his painful experience, says Alexander, “Is only one among tens of thousands in this state and possibly hundreds of thousands or millions around the nation who are victims of this abhorrent crime of paternity fraud.”

Fair seems rare in these cases but a creative thinking judge in Virginia found a way around that pesky Bradley Amendment. He ruled that a defrauded man who still legally owed $23,000 in back child support could pay it off at a rate of one dollar a year – for 1, 917 years! You gotta love that.

Be Sure For Baby's Sake

Be Sure For Baby’s Sake

This kind of fraud happens to young men going off to college, to soldiers going overseas, to men of all ages and occupations. And it ruins lives. Biological children of the falsely identified, new wives, grandparents and others are all profoundly affected by paternity fraud.

The best interests of a child is knowing their lineage and medical history. The best interest of society is to have a respected family court that is fair to all.

DNA tests cost about $30 these days. It’s time for automatic court-ordered DNA testing in all child support cases.




Diane Dimond February 23, 2015 at 8:04 am

ABQ Journal Reader Andrew Bilski writes:

“Thank you for this great article, Diane. However, why wait until child support case? I am guessing that parents have no choice about temperature of the newborn being taken. Because we know that it contributes to child’s health. So does the hereditary information about the newborn, so why not DNA?”

Diane Dimond February 23, 2015 at 8:05 am

ABQ Journal Reader Nl Evans writes:

“Check out Washington senate bill 5006 to stop paternity fraud

Diane Dimond February 23, 2015 at 8:05 am

Noozhawk Reader Ali Whiting writes:

“I absolutely agree that it’s past time for paternity fraud to be addressed by the courts. I find it mind boggling that the party that committed fraud and benefited from it is not penalized at all. Even this case – the mom readily admits she lied. She received the benefits. Yet another party is held responsible. How is this justice?”

Diane Dimond February 23, 2015 at 8:07 am

Well, its not justice. In fact, Ali, I found cases where child support had been ordered by the court to be paid by a man who was not the actual father…While the biological father was living in the same house with the child and mother!
Somethings got to change, I’d say. ~DD

Diane Dimond February 23, 2015 at 8:09 am

Noozhawk Reader Lou Segal writes:

“Thanks Diane for revealing this odious practice. Requiring a guy to pay child support for a child with whom he has no relationship and is not related to is absurd. Our family and divorce laws are generally very destructive to the families ensnared in the legal system, although extremely rewarding to the lawyers who encourage needless litigation and heartache.”

Diane Dimond February 23, 2015 at 11:14 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Mike McCormick writes:

“Diane, great article in the abq journal. What is being missed at the moment is that the federal child support agency is in the midst of a major transformation which will expand its mission far beyond child support. As the old adage goes “if you think this is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

In the column of egregious cases none is worse than my friend comedian Carl Labove. Carl is on the hook for over $200,000 for a child who was fathered by the late comedian Sam Kinison. It took 17 years to get the dna proof. When we went to court the judge stated; “too bad, public policy trumps biology.”

Carl’s life has been ruined and worse the daughter has no access to Kinison’s estate despite being the only heir. Ironically, years later Sam’s daughter sought out Carl because she wanted to know more about her father Sam, and he and Carl had been best friends.

Thanks again,

Mike McCormick

Diane Dimond February 23, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Twitter Pal Chrisahull responds to my question: “Should courts require DNA tests before awarding child support?”
Chrisahull @DiDimond Of course they should, it seems that if the DNA shows otherwise you are unfairly penalizing someone.”

Diane Dimond February 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Reader “Billy” writes:

“I just wanted to pass along my appreciation for your article.

I was the child of a situation like this. It robbed my step-father financially and emotionally. It robbed my bio-father of his chance to see his son grow up. It robbed me a relationship with my father.

I believe this should be a criminal offense. Yes, I believe my mother should have spent time in prison for this crime. Thankfully I don’t have any medical issues where knowing my bio-father’s medical history would have been critical to saving my life…

Thank you.”

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