Paternity fraud is when a mother of a child falsely identifies a man to be the biological father of the child, even when she knows he is not. When a woman intentionally commits paternity fraud, she is likely hoping that the named father will feel a sense of responsibility to the child. This often happens when the mother is looking to collect child support. Paternity fraud doesn’t just turn the non-biological father into a victim, the biological father is also stripped of his father’s rights.
First, review our main page on paternity. Second, if you think you’re a victim of paternity fraud, read this following topics about paternity fraud:
- A father’s responsibilities
- Paternity fraud and child support
- Court orders for child support despite paternity fraud
- Do I have to financially support my wife’s child?
- Consequences of paternity fraud
- Talk to a father’s rights lawyer
A Father’s Responsibilities
When a man is named the legal father of a child, biological or not, this title comes with obligations and parental rights. A father is responsible for:
- Support the child financially until he/she reaches age 18
- Provide health and/or live insurance coverage
- Meeting the child’s basic needs, including: food, health, education and shelter
It’s emotionally devastating when you’ve been taking care of a child, as your own, for so long and then find out that you’re not the biological father. It is your choice to voluntarily continue the responsibilities of a father or to be excused from responsibilities that are not meant to be yours if you didn’t agree to it. If you are the father, but someone else has been named the legal father of your child, you also have the right to challenge what is rightfully yours.
To learn more about these rights, visit our main paternity page.
Paternity Fraud and Child Support
When a woman willingly names the wrong man as the biological father to her child to receive child support, she likely sees that this man has better financial ability to support the child over the real biological father. If the named father has been paying child support, then subsequently finds out that the child is not his, he may challenge the order to pay child support. It is the court’s decision whether this man will have to continue paying child support or not. Steven W. v. Matthew S.
Court Orders for Child Support Despite Paternity Fraud
Even if you’re not the biological father of the child, you can be ordered to continue making child support payments. Some reasons that the court may force this on you are:
- The father has been supporting the child for a long time already and has acted as the father. In this case, the father has become a “de facto” parent.
- The child may become a ward of the court if child support is taken away
- The child’s best interests are served with the continual financial support
If you are not the biological father of the child, but have been making child support payments you may be subject to continuing these payments. It all depends on what the court sees as best for the child, however there are things that a victim of paternity fraud can do. There is a strict statute of limitation though. A notice of motion for a blood test or other genetic testing must be done within 3 years of the declaration of paternity. If you’ve been named the biological father of the child on the birth certificate and you suspect that you’re not the father, you must challenge paternity within 3 years of the child’s birth.
Do I have to Financially Support my Wife’s Child?
In California, most cases require only the child’s biological parents to financially support the child. The step parent usually does not have legal duty to support the child or children of his/her new spouse. California judges can’t change a child support order by looking at the stepfather’s income, unless there is some unusually significant circumstances that would cause extreme hardship for the child. This may happen when the natural parents of the child don’t make enough to support the basic needs of the child, but the mother’s new husband does have significant income.
Another situation that may require you to financially support your wife’s child is if she doesn’t pay the child support that is ordered. Since California is a community state, the court may look at the new funds that you are able to provide. A community state means that spouses share all assets acquired during the marriage, including income. The court may require you to turn over W-2s and 1099 tax forms.
Consequences of Paternity Fraud
It’s unfortunate that a father may be submitted to supporting a child that is not his because of fraud committed by the mother. It’s also unfortunate that there is no consequence for the mother, because it is not considered a crime liable to punishment. There is no statute in the California Penal Code that would make this a crime, but this act is clearly morally wrong and selfish on the part of the mother. McBride v. Boughton
Talk to a Paternity Fraud Lawyer
Fighting for your rights if you’re a victim of paternity fraud is complicated. It takes a lot of evidence and proof that you shouldn’t be the one to be responsible for a child that is not yours. If you’ve been tricked into believing that a child is yours and forced to pay child support, you may have a case that we can help you with. On the other hand, if you know that you are the biological father of the child and have been denied parental rights, we can also help you gain the paternity rights that you deserve. Talk to a father’s rights lawyer to understand what your parental rights are.