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Understanding paternity fraud -- Part I

Like father's rights advocates elsewhere in the country, those in Texas have long supported the rights of fathers to establish and maintain relationships with their minor children, including gaining custody in cases of divorce. In most cases, a child born to a married heterosexual couple or a couple that has been together for years is assumed to be the man's child. Usually, this assumed father signs papers acknowledging paternity when the child is born.

Occasionally, however, a child may later be found to have a different biological father; this is usually confirmed by DNA testing. In many cases, the assumed father has made personal and financial sacrifices to raise the child in the belief the child is his own. If the mother of the child knew the man was not the father, then this can constitute paternity fraud.

In such cases, the man may well experience a range of emotions when he realizes his wife of long-time companion was not faithful and that he is not the father of the child he loves. This can be emotionally devastating, especially if the couple separates and the man no longer has regular contact with the child he assumed was his. In many cases, men seek professional legal help to initiate cases to disestablish paternity and thus relieve themselves of ongoing financial obligations.

In some cases, the man may well decide to remain with his wife or partner even knowing that his supposed paternity was a lie. In any event, establishing actual paternity through genetic testing is paramount and can allow the man to make a decision knowing the actual facts. If he decides not to continue his relationship with the woman and her child, he may ask that a court award compensation from the woman, even asking for damages for emotional distress.

Source:, "Paternity fraud and compensation for misattributed paternity," Heather Draper, Aug. 2007

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