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Duped Into Daddying?
More men should be less sanguine about the origins of their offspring. I can't find the exact study, but a researcher I know did blood tests and DNA tests on a reasonable sample of children and parents, and found that a whopping 25%!! of the children didn't come from the father who had been led to believe he was the parent. An article in The New York Times by Mireya Navarro makes the same case. Yet, few men want to even consider the possibility, probably because of ego, and maybe because it just seems ugly to them. Well, ugly it may be, but not quite as ugly as being court-ordered to shell out a chunk of your income for a kid who isn't yours:

"I think the real bottom line is that for a few hundred dollars you can buy peace of mind that the child is yours," said Randall M. Kessler, a family law lawyer in Atlanta. Still, most men resort to DNA testing only when they are pushed. Lawyers like Mr. Leving say clients often request the test when they are being denied visitation rights and become suspicious of the reasons. In other instances friends or relatives - and often a current girlfriend or wife - might raise suspicion that a child is not theirs, or the mother herself might blurt it out.

"It happens in the heat of an argument, and the woman goes, 'You're not even the father of the child!' " said Taron James, who formed the group Veterans Fighting Paternity Fraud in California in 2002 after he fought for years to stop child support payments for a child that was not his.

In the most recent case to make headlines, Ms. Frey went to court to set aside the paternity judgment against the man who was paying child support for her 4-year-old daughter and attached the results of a DNA test that showed the girl's father was actually someone else.

Gloria Allred, the lawyer for Ms. Frey, said her client had believed "in good faith" that the man paying child support was the girl's father and argued that while women obviously have the responsibility to establish who the father is, so do men.

"Any man who's alleged to be the father of a child born outside of marriage is entitled to take that DNA test" to establish paternity, she said. "If he did not take the test, then he needs to take responsibility for his failure to do so. He shouldn't blame the mother."

But Glenn Wilson, who represents Anthony Flores, the child's presumed father, countered that unlike his client, "she knew who she had sex with."

"They were in what he thought was a monogamous relationship," he said. Despite such serious implications, like children not knowing their actual medical history, some of the men, and even their lawyers, do not entirely fault the mothers, who say the wrong man is the father of their child for a variety of reasons. Some of the women, they said, are in denial that there could be more than one possible father. Others do not want to be seen as adulterers. And still others believe the truth will destroy relationships both with their partner and their child.

A spokesman for one mother who did not want to be interviewed explained why she had not been honest with her husband.

"The boy would have found out," he said. "She wanted to protect the boy."

But some women are more deliberate in what Mr. Leving called "father shopping," picking the best provider possible even when he is not the true father. Lawyers like Mr. Leving advise to take the test without the mother's knowledge, "that way if he's the father, he doesn't have to start conflict with the mother."

Testing is simpler and cheaper now, Navarro writes:

With costs of paternity testing down - to $500 or less per test from nearly $1,000 just 10 years ago - and with the testing so simple it can be done at home (a swab from inside the cheeks does the job), DNA testing has become more common to settle legal disputes and questions about identity. A survey by the American Association of Blood Banks showed that more than 354,000 tests to establish parentage were performed in 2003, compared with about 149,100 in 1995.

Caroline Caskey, chief executive officer of Identigene, a DNA testing company in Houston that has advertised its services nationally in magazines and billboards, said that in about 30 percent of the paternity tests the presumed father turns out to be not the biological father, and that is consistent throughout the industry.

Oh, and guess what? Once a man starts paying for a kid, finding out that the kid isn't his isn't necessarily going to make the court cut off the order. Navarro notes this, too:

And the men who seek to halt child support payments - an act many of them say is an attempt to right a wrong, rather than to abandon the children they still care about - are surprised to learn that they are still required by many courts to continue to pay because it is deemed in the best interest of the child, especially if the man is the only father that child has ever known.

Gentlemen, get out your cotton swabs! And don't say I didn't warn you.

Posted by aalkon at October 2, 2005 9:23 AM

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I do have a bit of a different take on this. Back when my-ex and I were having extreme problems of keeping her pants on, she once threw a comment that Jenny, my youngest daughter, probably wasn't mine. I had always thought that she said it just to be hurtful and cruel because she knew that life as she knew it was going to change for the worse.

I was awarded custody of my girls, the ex didn't even show up for court. To this day, I still have in the back of my head that comment from 18+ years ago. I can certinly afford to have our DNA tested but what would be the point. Jenny calls me Daddy. To me thats what really matters.

Granted I have never had to pay support for her other that raising her until now. If we had been tested way back when, would it have made a difference. I would like to believe that it wouldn't have. This little beautiful girl only wanted to be loved and cared for. And she called me Daddy.

DNA or not, I did the right thing for me in my little bitty mind. Jenny didn't have any choices about who her parents were or are. I had a choice to make and know I made the correct one.

Posted by: Bret at October 2, 2005 5:28 AM

There are men out there who didn't want a kid and whose girlfriend got pregnant and turned to them (and turned their lives upside down) because she claimed it was theirs. Their are those men who will look the other way, and don't care so much about the DNA. But, if you're going to be forced to pay 18 years of child support, you might ask if the right man is being asked. Moreover, any man who believes a woman that she's on the pill or is otherwise protecting herself is an idiot. Even a woman you love can have a child against your will. It happens constantly.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 2, 2005 9:23 AM

> Well, ugly it may be, but
> not quite as ugly as being
> court-ordered to shell out
> a chunk of your income for
> a kid who isn't yours...

Are we sure? Bret's approach has a lot to recommend it. People are manipulative shits, but a lot of them have decent impulses.

The goal is to have more kids are raised in loving homes, right? It's probably made closer by encouraging Bret's style of generosity, rather than natural impulses of suspicion. Men don't have their "lives turned upside down" simply because a woman lied to them, but because they know that their behavior might have made the baby.

I still maintain that the way to prevent unwanted pregnancy is to keep your dick out of women you don't want mothering your children, or take other appropriate precautions. Dark suspicion and clever forensic technology are merely recourse for irresponsible people, and do nothing to defend the interests of the most vulnerable party in the scenario.

Q had a good piece about the importance of marriage recently:

Posted by: Crid at October 2, 2005 10:32 AM

Also, teh mainpage looks funky in Opera today, but with Firefox it looks golden.

Posted by: Crid at October 2, 2005 10:38 AM

Generosity should be a choice. And Bret has made an admirable choice. And thanks for telling me it's funky in Opera. We're working on a redesign which should be up by the end of the week, so if text looks small in Camino or weird on your browser, it will probably be fixed in a few days. Still, it would help if you let me know what browsers aren't working so well.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 2, 2005 11:03 AM

My 2nd Husband (may he rest in peace) told me his father always said "Never dip your wick in a lamp you don't want to buy."

People simply need to be more responsible about sex.

What am I thinking?

Posted by: Deirdre at October 2, 2005 11:06 AM

This seems to me to be a sword that cuts both ways. Both men and women cheat, therefore Joe may find out that only one of his kids is "his", but that two of Harry's kids are "his" (Joe's) as well.

Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by: deja pseu at October 2, 2005 12:03 PM

When people ask me if I have kids, I do enjoy responding, "None that I know of."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 2, 2005 12:06 PM

Heh! :-)

Posted by: deja pseu at October 2, 2005 12:22 PM

It's not rendering as you no doubt intend in Netscape 7/Win2K/800x600. It wants me to display full screen which I SO will not do. But at least everything's readable.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at October 2, 2005 4:54 PM

Actually, Stu, the new one was designed with your comment in mind -- about the 800x600 ratio. This is still the old one right now. I think the new one will probably be up by Wednesday.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 2, 2005 7:07 PM

It looks back to normal for me now. Earlier today all of Amy's posts were on the left margin, underneath all the links. I'm using IE, and have no idea what my resolution is.

Posted by: deja pseu at October 2, 2005 7:30 PM

Yes, it's a progress in work.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 2, 2005 10:57 PM

Saw this on ALD (& Cosh) and thought of Amy Alkon:

Posted by: Crid at October 2, 2005 10:58 PM

I read that. And I agree -- skepticism should be a part of every arena of life. That's why I never invested in the dot com "boom" -- because there was nothing tangible beneath it, and that was a problem. For a skeptic, anyway.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 2, 2005 11:10 PM

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