Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

Paternity Fraud Makes CNN
Now that it's not a sad secret of the many men who are screwed by this every year -- including guys who can't answer the summons because they're over in Iraq -- maybe some legislators will take steps to change the law. Here's the latest of so many stories from CNN:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) -- Francisco Rodriguez owes more than $10,000 in back child support payments in a paternity case involving a 15-year-old girl who, according to DNA results and the girl's mother, is not his daughter. art.rodriguez.wsvn.jpg

Francisco Rodriguez is fighting for leniency in his paternity case. "It's not right. I'm not the father, " he said.

Rodriguez, who is married with two daughters and a son from his wife's previous marriage, is fighting for leniency. "It's not right. I'm not the father, " he said at a recent court hearing.

He says he knew nothing about the other girl until paperwork showed up about four years ago saying he was the father.

He now has DNA results that show the 15-year-old girl wasn't fathered by him. He even has an affidavit from the girl's mother -- a former girlfriend from 1990 -- saying he's "not the father" and asking that Rodriguez no longer be required to pay child support.

Yet the state of Florida is continuing to push him to pay $305 a month to support the girl, as well as the more than $10,000 already owed. He spent a night in jail because of his delinquent payments.

Why is he in such a bind?

He missed the deadline to legally contest paternity. That's because, he says, the paperwork didn't reach him until after the deadline had passed. Video Watch Rodriguez plead in court for a break »

"It's like you're drowning every day," says Rodriguez, a massage therapist.

Rodriguez's case highlights the legal dilemma states face over how to handle paternity cases. More than a third of children born in the United States are born to unmarried parents, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

But paternity laws vary from state to state, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of low-income families.

Some states have detailed laws to challenge paternity within deadlines, while others offer little guidance. In most cases, men have 60 days to challenge paternity, according to CLASP.

After that, it can be "challenged only on the basis of fraud, duress or material mistake of fact," CLASP said last year in an update to a report on paternity law.

"There are no perfect answers," says Susan Paikin of the Center for Support of Families in Delaware. "Deadlines are imposed so that when families are broken -- the legal process is handled quickly."

Here, Susan, let me help you with the perfect answer: Don't make men pay for kids who aren't theirs.

Posted by aalkon at July 13, 2007 11:17 AM

Comments

"There are no perfect answers," says Susan Paikin

No, but there are perfect fools, and Susan Paikin is one.

Posted by: kishke at July 13, 2007 7:56 AM

In many states, and I am not sure how many, custody is paid to an agency which then pays the money to the custodial parent. And a fee is charged for that.

So it's big business and there is every incentive to cheat.

But it also means there is an agency that should be held responsible.

In many ways, I don't want there to be mandatory DNA tests for everyone. That way lies other civil rights and privacy abuses.

But if the state can mandate that some agency collects a fee, I think it entirely reasonable for that agency and/or the state to cough up the money to repay the fraudulent custody when they've made a mistake. Call it liability insurance.

Posted by: jerry at July 13, 2007 8:25 AM

It seems like it's such an imperative for kids to have funded upbringing, that we're willing to allow this monstrous travesty to continue.

I can hear the sighs of relief..."Oh, good. We've got someone to pay for this kid. Doesn't matter that he isn't the father."

Of course, what would be consistent, really, is not letting men pay for kids who aren't theirs, and having those who falsely accused them to be brought up on perjury charges, but of course, "a child needs his mother..." even if his mother happens to be a lowlife cheat who uses the system to swindle some guy she may or may not have had a roll in the hay with.

I'm reminded again of "The Ethicist" column that Kate Coe referred to you, Amy. About the man who discovered his girlfriend was getting child support from a past boyfriend, who, in fact, was not the father of all three of her kids.

The Ethicist, unethically, advised the man to keep quiet. The undercurrent, of course, is this mantra-like repetition of "The kids are being paid for...the kids are being paid for..."

And it doesn't matter that they're being paid for by someone who had nothing to do with their existence, or that they're being raised by a crook. We're just so relieved by that monthly or weekly infusion of cash, we don't even care where it's coming from.

Posted by: Patrick at July 13, 2007 8:57 AM

I'm frequently disgusted by "The Ethicist," who is often anything but. The comparison I always make to illustrate the travesty of paternity fraud is -- somebody robs a bank. Somebody, not you. Nevertheless, they pick you up and throw you in jail for 10 years. Somebody has to pay, after all. Why not you?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 13, 2007 9:11 AM

If there was any semblance of justice in this world, the man, father or not, would sue for sole custody. After all, if a guy is being forced to pay for the kid, doesn't that imply that he might be better equipped to raise said child?

Hasn't California had a whole bunch of "lottery" paternity fraud cases, where the erstwhile father, chosen at random, was not informed and therefore could not contest until it was too late?

Yet more fodder for those who believe that a woman's desire is to avoid responsibility at every turn.

Posted by: brian at July 13, 2007 10:09 AM

I don't believe any person should give birth to a child they can't feed, clothe and educate (through high school). I believe if an unmarried woman wants to have a child, she should be capable of doing that without expecting the sperm doner to support the child. If a man wants to be a father, then he should BE one...be there, and supportive. In the case of divorce, then it should be 50/50, or however the ratio of the paychecks are. I DO NOT think the female ex-spouse should have a free ride (unless the man is a millionaire, or such...different story).

This whole debacle about men paying child support who can prove by DNA that they did NOT provide said sperm should be off the hook. Completely and utterly, without having to spend a cent on legal fees.

After all, it is the female who gives birth. There is contraception, and there is abortion. If you believe some god tells you NOT to have an abortion, let him provide for the child. NOT us taxpayers.

Posted by: Mary Jane at July 13, 2007 11:44 AM

I'm in total agreement with you, Mary Jane, and that's a great way of putting it:

I don't believe any person should give birth to a child they can't feed, clothe and educate (through high school).

My personal approach has always been that of taking personal responsibility for what goes in and comes out of my body, including financial responsibility. I don't want kids, but even if I did, I would never, ever have sex with a man who didn't state that he wanted them and then expect that, if I got pregnant, he'd be on the hook to pay for or care for them.

Furthermore, as a man, it has to be exceptionally upsetting to have a kid on the planet that you didn't intend to be here. And sure, some men are irresponsible about birth control. And some have women put holes in the condom, swear they're on the pill, etc.

Guys, if you have sex with a woman, and she's not ethical, you're asking for trouble. Bring your own condom and see to it that you have agency over it from beginning to end.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 13, 2007 12:11 PM

If you believe some god tells you NOT to have an abortion,

The objection to abortion is that it is - or may be - murder. You may not believe it is, but surely you don't contend that one must believe in God to be opposed to murder.

Posted by: kishke at July 13, 2007 1:07 PM

Here, Susan, let me help you with the perfect answer: Don't make men pay for kids who aren't theirs.

That's a start, but I think a perfecter answer would be to not force child support on anyone by court order, ever.

Having a society where women know that any child they have is their responsibility alone, will force women to be more responsible when choosing whom to risk getting pregnant by (and irresponsible women will be bad mothers with or without a check from a man they claim is the child's father).

Most men (who deserve to be called men, anyway) will support their children, whether courts decree it or not.

The whole family courts industry would be reduced to near nothing by a simple move like that. It's just a big ugly pernicious bureaucracy that serves nobody well.

Posted by: xwl at July 13, 2007 2:22 PM

XWL,
I think you have a good idea, to a point. What about women in relationships where they are "encouraged" not to work and "encouraged" to have a passel of kids and then "encouraged" not to say anything when their husband hits them?

A woman like that could never leave her husband unless she knew she would have some kind of support. And how likely is an abusive guy to volunteer to pay child support? And is it really in the childs best interest to eliminate incentives for people to improve the quality of their lives?

I agree that people need to take responsibility for their own actions. However, it takes 2 to make a third, so is it really fair that only one of them should shoulder the entire burden? Ultimately it will be the woman who have to pay if child support is eliminated.

It is hard enough to get men to wear condoms as it is (seriously, the quantity of whining I have been subjected to on this subject is amazing.) I know a real" man would step up, but unfortunately their are a lot of very real assholes out there in the world who wouldn't.

The system clearly needs a lot of reform, but I don't think eliminating child support is the answer.

Maybe if people were't so concerned with unborn life we could require potential parents to present a payment plan before the end of the first trimester, and if sufficient funds are not available the pregnancy would have to be terminated. I am clearly a horrible person for even suggesting that.

Posted by: Shinobi at July 13, 2007 2:40 PM

I am clearly a horrible person for even suggesting that.

Um...yeah.

I think it's appalling that guys are paying child support for kids they can prove aren't theirs- and that's just typical government crap for you, by the way- but most of the comments here are pertaining to simple child support! Survey question, here- does anyone reading this blog NOT know where babies come from? Is anyone here confused about the mechanics of birth control? Why is it so awful for guys to have to stand up to their share of the responsibility? Yeah, some women are lazy pigs who have babies as a means of support. Does anyone here NOT know that? And Amy, didn't you say that women on college campuses should share in the responsibility for protecting themselves from rape? Explain how this is different. Not the fraudulent cases, I think we can all agree that those suck- but the cases where the woman gets pregnant, and they man dosen't want a baby. Hey- you go to a frat party and fall down drunk? What do you think might happen? Similarly- (or exactly) consent to a random hook-up, and figure she's got the birth control covered. Tell me the difference!

Posted by: Allison at July 13, 2007 4:58 PM

Allison -

The primary objection here is when a woman claims a man as the father when she knows for certain that he is not, and the court system forces him to pay support.

The likelihood of him actually having a say in the upbringing of that child is nil, after all it isn't his. But he is now legally obligated to pay for the raising of that child for eighteen years.

I've said it before, and I'll repeat it. When two persons engage in consensual sex, they are implicitly agreeing to all the potential consequences thereof. Therefore a man agrees, protection or no, to bear his part of the burden of raising a child by the simple act of consenting to intercourse. And a woman agrees, contraception or no, to become pregnant.

If you don't like those potentialities, then you ought not have sex with anyone you wouldn't be willing to make babies with. Because there is no such thing as safe sex.

Posted by: brian at July 13, 2007 6:38 PM

I don't want kids, but even if I did, I would never, ever have sex with a man who didn't state that he wanted them and then expect that, if I got pregnant, he'd be on the hook to pay for or care for them. What do you, walk into the bedroom with a questionaire on a clipboard like Elaine on Seinfeld checking for sponge-worthiness? And why shouldn't he be on the hook? Kids cost money, and time, and care- and every kid has two parents, regardless of which parent owns the uterus.

I believe if an unmarried woman wants to have a child, she should be capable of doing that without expecting the sperm doner to support the child. Oh, really? How many of them seem to be? We're all paying child support to kids who aren't ours- the government calls it tax. Personally, I think it would be better to find out who is actually the dad, and make him pay his fair share.

That's a start, but I think a perfecter answer would be to not force child support on anyone by court order, ever. Does anyone agree with this gem?

Having a society where women know that any child they have is their responsibility alone, will force women to be more responsible when choosing whom to risk getting pregnant..
Why not? That's what women get- after all, we wouldn't have to deal with this problem at all if it weren't for us women and our pesky uteri! And if we can't handle sole responsibility, we can always have an abortion- perhaps by government mandate! It seems that no discussion about sex, marriage, babies, child support or other parental responsiblity great or small can be complete without abortion.

I realize that the primary object of the conversation should be fraudulent cases. And most of the people on here seem to be sticking to the issue at hand, which is fraudulent cases. So why are so many of the comments seeming to be aimed at relevant, fair child support? And why are so many of the comments so freaking misogynistic? Someone said it, above- some folks are just always going to see stuff like this as an indictment against all women, and I personally am sick and tired of it.

Posted by: Allison at July 13, 2007 9:03 PM

So Allison you are of the opinion that sperm donors should be hit up for child support if a single woman cant afford to take care of her child?
Suppose your husband years ago donated sperm to a sperm bank for what ever reason, and one day out of the blue you family is forced to give some stranger money because she picked your guy's sperm and cant afford to pay for her child any more. Is that fair to you, to your children, to your family?

As for your first question why shouldn't he be on the hook, lets switch the gender roles.

Two people hook up the guy wants kids, the woman doesn't. She winds up pregnant because he sabotaged the birth control, before she gets an abortion he gets a court order preventing it(sounds outlandish, but go with me) she has the kid and he takes custody, she never wanted the kid to begin with but is now forced to give this guy nearly half of her income each month in child support to a man she probably despises for deciving her and for a child she never wanted in the first place.

Now why is it when this happens to a guy nobody cares? I'd like to seeit hppen to a few women, maybe then people will start to care. And to be perfectly honest with you, if women were not allowed to screw with men and get money in such a duplicitous manner perhaps there wouldnt be so many 'accidental' pregnancies.

Posted by: lujlp at July 14, 2007 3:50 AM

..."She winds up pregnant because he sabotaged the birth control, before she gets an abortion he gets a court order preventing it(sounds outlandish, but go with me)...."

lujlp,
Surely we don't need these breathlessly outlandish "what if & then what if and then what if..." examples of women's evil?

We've already got these surreal cut 'n dried paternity fraud cases - which no one at all here seems to support at all.

And it's not hard, putting it politely, to find daily examples of men dodging any responsibility to pay for the kids they did want.

And why would you assume Allison wants to punish sperm donors?

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 14, 2007 5:46 AM

I don't want to punish sperm donors- my understanding of a sperm bank scenario is that both parties have agreed to a certain deal - the donor has left sperm with the knowledge that the receiver is going to use it to make a baby. The reciever understands that the donor has left the sperm for that purpose, and probably also to make a buck. It's a totally different thing, and you setting that scenario up is exactly what I'm talking about. Women are eeeevil, and out for mens' money at every turn. Men on the other hand, are unwitting dupes, who didn't even see it coming. Kids are nothing but a huge burden, sprung on this innocent moron of a man by the typical unscrupulous woman. Tell me, who should be more insulted by your characterization- men or women?

YOur gender switch story is the most convoluted, silly thing I've ever heard, but to boil it down, two people hooked up and a pregnancy resulted. The pregnancy was brought to term, and courts determined the dad to be the better parent, and awarded him custody. Yes, I think the mom should pay child support, and I think most people would agree, even without the dramatic, silly circumstances you've outlined.

Finally, if this happened more regularly, would there be fewer unplanned pregnancies? Love the assumption that the woman is always the responsible party there. Has the incidence of child support required of men lowered the rate of unplanned pregnancies?

Posted by: Allison at July 14, 2007 7:28 AM

lujlp, that was for. I meant to address him/her, sorry.

Posted by: Allison at July 14, 2007 7:32 AM

My gender switch story may have seemed silly but you seemed to miss the point entirely, women never have to birth a child if they dont want to. Guys dont have the same option to get out of an unwanted pregnacy.
As for why I would assume Alliosn wants to punish sperm donors I'll quote her

I believe if an unmarried woman wants to have a child, she should be capable of doing that without expecting the sperm doner to support the child. - "Oh, really? How many of them seem to be? We're all paying child support to kids who aren't ours- the government calls it tax. Personally, I think it would be better to find out who is actually the dad, and make him pay his fair share."


Posted by: lujlp at July 14, 2007 7:13 PM

I believe if an unmarried woman wants to have a child, she should be capable of doing that without expecting the sperm doner to support the child.
lujlp, This sounds to me like the commentor is using the term 'sperm donor' as a dismissive way of referring to the man in a relationship that has unwittingly conceived a chld. I really don't see that she means a literal sperm donor, in the sense of a person who has left sperm at a sperm bank for the express purpose of creating a baby with a stranger.

What I"m talking about when I say 'legitimate, fair child support' I mean two people got together for the purpose of sex- for fun, within a relationship, or whatever. They may or may not have used birth control, discussed kids, or even knew each other's names, but they conceived a kid, and they are both responsible for that kid. Because if they aren't, lujlp, who is?

Posted by: Allison at July 14, 2007 8:23 PM

...you seemed to miss the point entirely, women never have to birth a child if they dont want to. Guys dont have the same option to get out of an unwanted pregnacy..

And y'know, cry me a river here. I'm not blaming men for it- mind you- but if your a man, you can have a hundred kids, yet you'll never be pregnant, go through labor, require major abdominal surgery or end up with chronic diabetes or incontinence- boo hoo to your perceived lack of control, here. Again, biological reality is not mens' fault, but as a mom, I'm having a hard time mustering much sympathy for this particular above-pasted italicised statment.

Posted by: Allison at July 14, 2007 8:44 PM

I dont care about your sympathy, it is an emotional irrelevence to the discussion at hand. My only point is guys have three options when it comes to birth control, vasectomy, condoms, and prayer and no option at all when it comes to child birth, and as the original story points out nearly no options even when a child isnt even yours.

Posted by: lujlp at July 15, 2007 1:26 AM

Vasectomy, condoms and prayer. Yeah, I'd add standards- don't sleep with strangers. Knowing something about the character and personality of the person you're sleeping with will cut your risk substantially, assuming what you know is good. As for the fraudulent cases, well, that sucks. If I knew of a case first hand, I'd be even more upset. I've never met someone in this situation, nor have I heard of one, outside of this blog, and now CNN. I know quite a few single parents with deadbeat or just plain sorry co-parents.

Posted by: Allison at July 15, 2007 6:57 AM

lujlp,

Why should a guy have the right to decide whether a woman goes through pregnancy and gives birth?

Can you answer THAT without loading the scenario with sabotaged condoms - or her alleged lies about fertility or any other suppositions?

But let's peacefully assume it is his kid-to-be.

Why should he have the right to decide?

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 15, 2007 6:59 AM

Women have certain rights when it comes to child birth, they can have an abortion, they can give it away in adotion, they can leave the child at a church or a fire station or a hospital and walk away and never look back.

Why cant guys do the same? Within a resonable timeframe? Personally I think if someone is having a child they should be responsible, but at the same time I also feel that men should have the same rights as women to get out of an unwanted pregnacy.

And as this story shows many men dont even have the 'right' to refuse to pay for children that arent even theirs.

You ask why should he have the right to decide, becuase women have that right. I may as well ask you why women have the right to decide.

Posted by: lujlp at July 15, 2007 2:26 PM

Hey lujilp,
This is going to be an extremely unpopular opinion, and about as likely to happen as pigs to fly, but I think abortion should be illegal, and child support should be half the non-custodial parent's salary. If he/she dosen't have a job, he/she should be involuntarily enrolled in the military, or some other understaffed public area. In return, I think the custodial parent should have to provide a breakdown of expenses with receipts to show where the money was spent, on the child. That's my opinion, and I think it would cut unintended pregnancies by a large percent.

Posted by: Allison at July 15, 2007 4:07 PM

lujlp,

Thanks for replying.

I understand now what you think.
Even if I don't comprehend how you could ever force a woman to abort or carry to term against her wishes since it's her body.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 15, 2007 4:33 PM

Allison, personally I happen to have a simillar opinion, a little more draconian to tell the truth. I just feel that as long as women have options to get out of pregnacies guys should have the same.

Jody, my example of forcing a women into or out of pregnacy was mearly a poor atempt to illistrate what can happen to some men. They dont endure the physical and emotional strains of the birth itself, but any one with kids knows regnancy is only the begining out the emotioal, physical, and financial strains of rearing children

Posted by: lujlp at July 15, 2007 11:06 PM

Yesterday was supposed to be the end of the four year charade in court. But unfortunately the courts find a way to extend the injustice. The girl that was supposed to be tested , ran away for a SECOND TIME!!! What does the judge do , extend the case another 30 days meanwhile the statue (742.10) clearly states that I am to win by default if the other side willfully does not get tested. What a crime the courts should supeona the child and hold her down if need be to obtain a test sample from her. Can someone help me because my lawyer obviously does not care enough to mention this. As he once told me, he is not in this for the civil protest but just to rid me of future child support payments.

Posted by: Francisco Rodriguez at August 2, 2007 4:49 AM

Leave a comment