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Paternity for many is a tough issue, both emotionally and legally. Paternity is assigned to men and boys in a few ways. The first is by marriage. Men are automatically assumed to be the father if they are married to the mother or in many states if they attempted to marry the mother and did not do so in a legal manner. The second is by voluntary acknowledgment. This is a typically a form that is signed in the hospital prior to the release of the mother and child. The third is by court judgment.
Most if not all states have a law that looks something like this:
(1) A man is presumed to be the father of a child if:
(a) He and the mother of the child are married to each other and the child is born during the marriage;
(b) He and the mother of the child were married to each other and the child is born within three hundred days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or declaration of invalidity;
(c) Before the birth of the child, he and the mother of the child married each other in apparent compliance with law, even if the attempted marriage is, or could be, declared invalid and the child is born during the invalid marriage or within three hundred days after its termination by death, annulment, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or declaration of invalidity; or
(d) After the birth of the child, he and the mother of the child have married each other in apparent compliance with law, whether or not the marriage is, or could be declared invalid, and he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and:
(i) The assertion is in a record filed with the state registrar of vital statistics;
(ii) Agreed to be and is named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate; or
(iii) Promised in a record to support the child as his own.
(RCW 26.26.116 Presumption of paternity in context of marriage. on leg.wa.gov)
While this law might seem reasonable to many it does not take into account that it is estimated that 40% of wives will have an affair at some point in their marriage (www.caughthercheating.com) What if that child is not the husbands?
The second way is for the father and mother to sign Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital when you have your baby. The hospital staff will give you this form and help you complete it. When you and the child’s father sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form, the father’s name will be placed on the birth certificate.
If you and the baby’s father are unable to sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital, you may complete it at home. Your signature must be witnessed by someone over 18 years old, and by a person not named on the voluntary acknowledgment.
You don’t have to be the biological father to sign this form there is no proof required you are stating you are the father and will be responsible the moment you sign this from. Most states but not all have laws that allow you to challenge paternity that is assigned based on the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. They typically have a set time period with in which you can contest your paternity.
The third way is to have paternity assigned to you by a court. This can happen if the alleged father does not responded to a woman’s claim for paternity or if the Judge or Jury feels that it is in the best interest of the child. For example a section of Missouri’s bill requires courts to balance the best interests of the child and the hardships of the man who is contesting paternity regardless of a DNA test proving that he is not the father.
“James McClendon knows he’s not the biological father of his ex-girlfriend’s 16-year-old son. He’s got a DNA test to prove it. But his wages are trimmed each month to pay thousands in child support debt. McClendon, who lives in St. Louis, has been fighting a 10-year legal battle to overturn a paternity ruling that says he’s the child’s father. Between legal bills, supporting his three biological children and several failed jobs, he’s built up $25,000 in child support debt.” (States move to allow DNA paternity challenges, By LEE LOGAN The Associated Press www.kansascity.com)
Stories like this are not all that uncommon unfortunately and have been a leading reason why in over 30 states laws are being or have been enacted to allow men to challenge paternity with a DNA test. A major force lobbying for changes to paternity laws is Carnell Smith, an engineer in Atlanta. Smith successfully lobbied for a Georgia law that allows men to challenge paternity at any time. Smith who calls himself a victim of “paternity fraud,” used this same law to erase his own paternity ruling in 2003. Carnell Smith has formed a national organization lobbing for similar laws in other states.
Laws about child support and child custody are different from state to state all of them require that there is solid proof that a relationship exists. If you want to get custody of a child you need to prove that you are related to that child. Unfortunately there are still situations where paternity is “assigned.” Paternity is “assigned” when, a child is born to the wife during a marriage this is called “presumption of legitimacy”, and the husband is assigned complete rights, duties and obligations as to the child. In the case of an unwed mother, a man may come forward and accept the paternity of the child, or the mother may petition the court for a determination, or paternity can be determined over time by showing that a man has been supporting a child in the ways of a father.
Non of those ways of determining paternity actually answers the question about who the father is. Many states have started to in act what are called paternity fraud laws which give a man the chance to dispute his role as the father. Traditionally relationships between parties were often determined by what was “reasonable” to assume. With DNA technology available for widespread use it has caused a change in the way paternity claims are dealt with.
More often than ever before a large group of shocked possible fathers are discovering that the children they’ve raised as their own are not biologically theirs. The mental impact of such a discovery can range from distressing to devastating, there is additional emotional distress when the man who has been known as the child’s father suddenly understands that he’s paid years of child support payments, sometimes many, many thousands of dollars, for another man’s child.
A great example is the case of Bert Riddick of California. As reported in a Los Angeles Times story Mr. Riddick was getting ready to leave on a business trip when his fiance discovered a court summons. In that summons Riddick was called forward as the father of his ex-girlfriend’s baby. Riddick had to attend to business elsewhere and didn’t go to the hearing. On his return he discovered that his wages were already being garnished. He had fallen victim to a common practice of declaring a man “guilty” by default. Bert Riddick was declared the father because he had not proven otherwise. This ruling destroyed Riddick’s new family financially. The Riddick family was forced to rely on the kindness of relatives who allowed them to stay in their home, the Riddick children in a tiny room together. Though Riddick’s life had been brought to ruin and his family became destitute. A simple home DNA test eventually proved that Bert Riddick was not the father of the child he’d had his wages garnished for all these years, but it wasn’t until years later that the State of California released him from the financial obligation to a child that wasn’t biologically his.
Another good example is the case of Doug Richardson of Michigan who, paid child support for fifteen years on a child that wasn’t his. He paid roughly $80,000 in support. Mr Richardson claimed in the Detroit News that not only was he supporting a child who was not his, but he was financially supporting the child’s biological father a man involved with Richardson’s ex-wife. Mr. Richardson says he’s been tormented by this issue for the last fifteen years. Richardson was forced to file bankruptcy because he couldn’t pay his bills, back taxes and the penalties that go with them.
Fraudulent child support collections have destroyed the lives of many men. A dozen other states offer legal protection to men who disprove paternity in such cases but still others do not. In 2005 almost twenty five percent of the states DNA paternity tests done for children born out-of-wedlock proved to be negative. In Georgia, if a man proves that he is not a child’s father his child support order will be ended. Maryland no longer has a limit on how long one can take to challenge a paternity case, something a lot of other states are looking at seriously. DNA paternity testing is now an established and important legal part of many paternity cases in the United States.
If you have any doubts or questions about the paternity of a child you might be supporting look into your states paternity law and get a DNA paternity test. Knowledge is the best protection you have.
It is assume by the majority of people that the mother will be awarded automatic custody of a child, this is only holds true in certain cases – for instance, when the biological father has not been determined and the mother is fit to parent. However, in most cases, the truth is that whether the parents are married or not, they both have the SAME right to be awarded custody. Many courts do still tend to favor the mother for certain reasons, but when the child is between infancy and about 9 years of age there is still a valid case for awarding the father full or partial custody.
Fathers still have important rights they need to be aware of:
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I don’t even know what to say – either we have become way to over protective or our society has become one of the most dangerous in the world and we aren’t careful enough.
“America’s Worst Mom”, Lenore Skenazy, has taken her parenting experiences, and those of other parents, collected on her web page, “Free-Range Kids” and turn them into a book by the same name.
For those of you who like me didn’t know about Lenore Skenazy, she is the mother of Izzy, who at the age of 9 was allowed by his parents to make is way home from a New York Bloomingdale’s. Izzy was given quarters, a subway map, transit tickets, and 20 dollars. He had to travel just a few miles, taking 1 subway for a total of 3 stops and 1 bus for a total of 6 stops. Skenazy who was very proud of her son wrote a news column about Izzy’s experience only to find herself and her family as the center of a media frenzy.
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Nault Matzen Over 200 pairs of eyes are glued to me as a spirited child screams, “ORDER ME MY MEAL NOW!” This child has refused to order his own hamburger (as he has done many times before) and when I calmly tell him he can either order it himself, or go home without his burger, he goes completely berserk. Yes, I have entered into a “food fare nightmare”—with my formidable opponent, an eight year old child. I feel my cheeks flush as public onlookers wait in complete stunned silence to see who will win—the big one or the little one?
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By Walter Lobwein
Raising Your Children. Parents, make your home a Happy Home. Life does not have to be a battle with your children. Both you and your child are beginners in the Parent–Child relationship. Map out the best future possible for yourself and your children by learning from the best tips and advice available and avoid the child raising problems so many experience.
The Art of Raising Children. Raising your family in this modern world is not a simple matter for most people.
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By Michael Cole
For many years now we have been hearing about how hard it is to be a single mother. They have to hold down a job, maintain a household IE cook, clean, do laundry etc. They in effect have two very demanding full time jobs.
I think it is outstanding that there are so many programs designed to allow a single mom live with dignity. They have access to free or reduced cost child day care. There is “WIC” Women, Infants, and Children. There are education grants,reduced cost housing, free job training, and the list just goes on.
Google “single moms” and you get 19,500,000 results. Lots of programs geared to the the single mom.
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By Alvaro Castillo
Lawmakers hope a new bill being enacted this year will reduce California’s gang violence. Here are the Facts First:
• The Parental Accountability Act allows courts to order parents of young gang members to attend parenting classes.
• Courses will teach parents how to identify gang and drug activity in their kids.
• They will also learn better communication skills with their children.
Gang violence has been in the forefront in Santa Barbara this year. Police have identified 700 gang members living in the city. The new law will hold parents of gang members accountable for their children’s actions.
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