Paternity Fraud - Who’s the Father?

Both father’s men’s rights and fathers’ rights groups have focused on paternity fraud - a term which came into use in the 1990s, where in a mother names a man to be the father of her child, usually for the purpose of collecting child support. Many jurisdictions in the United States apply Lord Mansfield’ s Rule, a British common-law holding that a child born into a marriage is of that marriage. In some jurisdictions, the husband of the mother of a child has been held to be the lawful father, regardless of the biological relationship to the child, and within the context of marriage, men have very limited opportunities to challenge doubtful paternity. In the face of this, some men’s groups now press for mandatory DNA testing at birth.

Paternity fraud, men’s rights activists contend, damages the man falsely accused of paternity, the child deprived of a relationship with his real father, and the biological father who is cut off from a relationship with his child. Others caution that DNA testing may not be in the best interests of the child because a finding that the child is not a man’s biologic child may result in the father’s rejection of the child. In some places, DNA testing requires the consent of the mother or a court order.

The men’s movement branches to more than concerns related to marriage and divorce. It is more of an umbrella term. It refers to freedoms and entitlements of boys and men and the role and position of men in society, particularly what some men feel is the diminishing status of men in Western civilization. Various men’s rights writers and groups press for equality in areas such the award of alimony (less than 4 percent of men receive it); education (57 percent of college students are woman and the number is increasing); false rape accusations (such as the 2006 Duke University lacrosse case); health (men die on average about eight years earlier than women); suicide (men kill themselves three to four times more frequently than women); murder (men are three times more likely be murdered); conscription (largely men only); and media portrayal.

One of the more provocative positions advanced by men’s rights groups concerns reproductive rights. Some men’s rights activists argue that a woman can force unwanted fatherhood on a man, such as when she misleads him about contraception, but that a man cannot force unsought motherhood on a woman. Courts have ruled that women, married or single, cannot be prevented from having an abortion by the child’s father, nor can he force her to have one. In 2006, the National Center for Men undertook a support appeal of Matt Dubay, who had been order to pay child support to his former girlfriend, Lauren Wells. Dubay claimed he had made it clear to Ms. Wells that he had no interest in fatherhood and that she had misled him about her fertility. In the appeal, lawyers argued that in the event of an unplanned pregnancy, when an unmarried woman informs a man that she is pregnant by him, he should have the opportunity to give up all paternity rights and responsibilities. Supporters this would allow the woman time to make an informed decision and give men the same reproductive rights as women. The Sixth District Court of Appeals dismissed the case.



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