The downside of DNA testingAh the medical miracles that genetic-mapping and DNA testing produce. That does not mean the mapping of the genetic code is entirely a positive development. It has its downsides.
By: Bonnie Erbe, The Dickinson Press
Ah the medical miracles that genetic-mapping and DNA testing produce. That does not mean the mapping of the genetic code is entirely a positive development. It has its downsides.
Here’s one. More and more, fathers who believe they are (and have been told they are) the biological parent of a child they are raising, are finding out that in truth someone else is the biological male parent.
“Over the last decade, the number of paternity tests taken every year jumped 64 percent, to more than 400,000. That figure counts only a subset of tests — those that are admissible in court and thus require an unbiased tester and a documented chain of possession from test site to lab. Other tests are conducted by men who....buy kits from the Internet or at the corner Rite Aid, swab the inside of their cheeks and that of their putative child’s and mail the samples to a lab. Of course, the men who take the tests already question their paternity, and for about 30 percent of them, their hunch is right.”
I cannot imagine the pain suffered by the men who’ve been “tricked” into believing paternity. This past weekend’s New York Times Sunday magazine article on the topic described one man who found out that the 4-year-old girl he had raised since birth was fathered by someone else. He shut himself into the bathroom for hours of bawling and dry heaving.
There is probably no worse damage a woman can do to a man than to lie about (or not admit the possibility of) alternative biological fatherhood to him.
The problem is, however, when a man discovers he’s been lied to, most of the time there’s already another person in the world who’s been depending on his love and financial support: the child who in truth was parented by another man. The problem is balancing the rights of the child and the child’s best interests, with the man now often called the “duped dad.”
Family court judges, normally employees of state court systems, have no easy solution. They adhere, as do many legal specialists, to historic legal doctrine now completely outmoded by modern technology. English common (or judge-made) law from the 18th century presumes the child born into a marriage is the product of that union unless the husband was impotent, sterile or beyond “the four seas” when the wife conceived. That’s still the gold standard for most U.S. common law.
My first thought about what to do is, “let the women who lied to these men become fully financially responsible for the children they brought into this world.” But what if the woman lied to the man specifically to take his money because she could not afford a child on her own?
Seems to me this scenario is a poster child moment for requiring licenses for childbearing. I’m not seriously suggesting this. I’m just saying that too many people are bringing children into this world in situations where they are not properly prepared financially or emotionally to raise them. Women who pull this lowest of tricks should not be able to require “duped dads” to underwrite their duplicitous behavior. On the other hand, neither should taxpayers be forced to pay for these children if the scorned mothers are forced onto welfare.
The best solution would be to require the mother to pay for the child’s upbringing and give the cuckolded father full custody. That harsh penalty would put a quick stop to similar behavior in the future by other women. Or one would hope it might. But then there are all those less-than-clear cases where the mother has little or no independent income. And in this column, at least, I’m only considering the cases of married couples. Many unmarried fathers have been similarly duped.
What’s a judge to do in those cases? The English common law is clearly outdated. Creative and Solomonic wisdom is required here. Wish I had a more concrete suggestion. But these cases will have to be judged individually on the facts and punishment doled out where appropriate.
— Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail her at bonnieerbe@CompuServe.com.