Fathers face many significant challenges in the family court system of the United States. Every father and every alleged father need to know their rights when it comes to establishing paternity. Unfortunately, paternity fraud is widespread in the United States and worldwide, causing many men to believe they are fathers of children who are not their biological children.
In some cases, a mother may wholeheartedly believe that an alleged father is the biological father of her child and makes an honest mistake with tragic consequences. In other cases, biological mothers knowingly lie about paternity for some benefit, typically to secure child support from the alleged father.
The unfortunate reality in the United States is that no firm laws on the books define paternity fraud as a punishable crime. As a result, a mother who knowingly lies about her child’s paternity may face little to no actual consequences if her behavior is discovered, primarily because it can be challenging to prove that someone knowingly lied about something. However, fathers victimized by paternity fraud are not entirely without legal recourse.
The Importance of Establishing Paternity
It’s common for alleged fathers to simply accept responsibility for children they firmly believe to be their own with little to no dispute. However, any man who has any reason to suspect he is not the biological father of a child should exercise the full extent of his rights to ensure he does not become the victim of paternity fraud. It’s possible to demand a paternity test through the family court system that can firmly establish or disprove the paternity of an alleged biological child, potentially saving the alleged father years of child support payments and emotional devastation.
When a married woman gives birth, her husband is the presumptive father. When an unmarried woman gives birth, the alleged father is typically considered the presumptive father, and he must agree to sign the child’s birth certificate. In either case, the father must sign the child’s birth certificate. Unfortunately, many men in this position will not voice their suspicions so soon after a child’s birth. Signing the birth certificate out of a sense of obligation can lead to years of financial responsibility for a child who is not his own.
Suppose you have any reason to suspect you are not the father of your wife or partner’s child. In that case, it is vital to take formal legal steps toward establishing paternity before you assume parental responsibility for the child. While this may generate tension between you and your partner, it is ultimately best to address these concerns immediately rather than allow your suspicions to metastasize over time and generate an even larger confrontation years down the road.
Discovering Paternity Fraud
If you discover your alleged child’s mother knowingly lied about paternity to secure child support from you, it is essential to consult an experienced fathers’ rights lawyer as soon as possible. Depending on the unique details of your situation, it may be possible to secure a Disestablishment of Paternity that ceases your parental obligations to the child. This would eliminate your parental responsibilities and liability for child support. However, if you have been raising the child for many years as your own and developed a strong bond with the child, doing so can be devastating for your relationship and would not serve the child’s best interests. While paternity fraud can be an excruciating experience for the wrongfully named father, the child is the one who ultimately suffers the most from these incidents.
Ultimately, there is no single strategy for effectively navigating this difficult situation. If the child is still very young, disestablishing paternity as soon as possible could benefit you by eliminating your child support obligation while also encouraging the child’s mother to reach out to the child’s biological father for support, potentially opening the door for the father to reconnect with his child. It’s also possible for the court to require you to continue paying child support if you have held yourself out as the child’s father for a long time.
In the event you can prove that the child’s mother knowingly lied about paternity specifically to hold you accountable for child support, you would have grounds for legal recourse against her. It may be possible to hold the child’s biological father accountable for the financial support you have already contributed to raising his child, but you could hold the mother accountable for fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and various other damages based on the specifics of your case.
Find Legal Counsel Immediately
It’s possible to discover paternity fraud in many different ways, all of them with devastating consequences. No matter how this discovery came about in your situation, you should discuss your legal options with an attorney as soon as possible. For example, you might feel compelled to establish parental rights over the child if the biological father is nowhere to be found and you have already forged strong bonds with the child. This would enable you to continue being the child’s father into the future and may open the door to formal adoption. You may also wish to hold the mother accountable for knowingly hiding the truth from you and effectively extorting you.
Legal counsel is essential in any paternity fraud case. Depending on the nature of your unique situation, your case may touch on family law as well as civil law. You could face several family law proceedings in the future to disentangle yourself from the child’s mother or to establish your parental rights as an adoptive parent, and you may also face a difficult civil suit against the child’s mother to hold her accountable for knowingly deceiving you.
An experienced fathers’ rights attorney can provide the guidance you need in this situation. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the intense emotions the discovery of paternity fraud can generate, and measured legal counsel is an invaluable resource in this situation. Every paternity fraud case will involve unique and emotionally challenging details. The best way to address this challenging situation is to consult a fathers’ rights attorney as soon as possible.