There is no scenario that can be concocted which can completely capture a full comparison of Paternity Fraud. It is a matter of reality, that a man, no matter how hard he may try, cannot easily convince a woman that she is the mother of a child, which was in reality mothered by another woman. Let’s face it, barring a coma, women are quite well aware of giving birth to a child. Women are quite well aware of conceiving a child, they know they are pregnant, and they experience child birth. Men on the other hand, well, they are left to trust the fact that they are in a relationship that has a reasonable expectation of trust, honesty, and commitment that will overpower any level of doubt as to whether they fathered the child their female partner is attributing his fatherhood to.
With that being said, the scenario to be presented is about as close as anything may come to a woman experiencing the difficulties a man could face under the current laws of most states.
A husband and wife seem to have a functional happy marriage. They both have good jobs, which combined put them in to the “upper-middle class” demographic. They have two children together, and are very involved in their community. There is some level of marital strife; the couples sex life has been almost non-existent for a significant period of time, and the husband is frustrated with the situation. At work, the husband has begun a relationship with a young woman which escalates to an extra-marital affair. The husband and the young woman are able to keep their affair a secret, except for once thing. During one of their encounters, the young woman became pregnant. The man does not inform his wife of the ordeal, and in the mean time encourages the young woman to not terminate the pregnancy, assuring her that he will take full responsibility for the child.
Upon the birth of the child, the young woman decides she does not want to be a mother yet, and offers the man the opportunity to take the child. He agrees, and returns home with a new-born baby. His wife, still unaware of the extra-marital affair is surprised at the sudden appearance of the child, but after much discussion chooses to take on the responsibility of mothering this child. She holds the child out as her own, and maintains a mother/child relationship with the child for almost 2 years. At which point, the marriage deteriorates beyond the point of reconciliation, and they couple decides to divorce.
During the divorce proceedings, the husband is awarded primary custody of all 3 of the children. And the wife is ordered to pay child support for all 3 of the children. The wife gets a DNA test to prove she is not the biological mother of the 3rd child, and tries to present that evidence in court; she is denied the motion, as state law does not allow for the Maternity of the child to be contested, and because she and the father were married when the child was born. The judge explains to the wife that, while she may be able to prove that she is not the biological mother of the child; she has spent the past 2 years as the “mother figure” in the child’s life, and that child has become dependent on her financially. He explains that the law does not allow for her to contest maternity, and that she will be held liable for the financial support of this child until it reaches adulthood.
In addition to all of this, the judge explains, the child, whom she has proven to not be her own, must be provided for with medical insurance, and additional care expenses such as day-care, educational expenses (the father plans to send the child to a private school with it’s siblings), and special activities will also be her responsibility. Frustrated, the wife speaks to her attorney about the legality of this order, and the attorney explains that yes, in fact all of what the judge has ordered is legal. In addition, the wife will need to change her will to include the child that is not biologically hers, so that in the case of her death, the child will be cared for. He explains that if she does not do so, the child could sue her estate, tie up the inheritance of her biological children, and consume a substantial amount of their inheritance.
While the possibility of this scenario playing out is HIGHLY unlikely for a woman, it is a VERY possible reality for a man. These cases take place in courts across the country every day. There is a difference though; in many cases, the man are not aware of the fact that they are not the father of one of the children throughout the entire duration of the marriage. In some cases, they spend the entirety of the child’s life never being aware of that fact. But sometimes, they are made aware, either through necessary medical testing for possible genetic diseases, or by admission of the mother, or even admission by a friend or family member of the mother, and most of the time, by the time the man finds out, it is too late.
Back to the story. What do we think would happen, if the situation explained in this story really took place?
First, what is the possibility that a man, who had an extra-marital affair would a) be able to just take a baby home, and ; b) be able to talk his wife in to accepting the child as her own? Neither seem very likely, but there are women, married women, who have extra-marital affairs, become pregnant, and in an attempt to cover it up, return to the marital bed, provide sexual access to the husband, and lead the husband to believe her is the father of the child.
It is easy for a woman, a mother, to make this happen, and cover-up the reality of her affair. As mentioned previously, mothers will always know who the mother of their child is. There is no way to deceive a woman in to believing she is the mother of a child she did not carry for none months, and give birth to, or willingly adopt. (adoption of course being an entirely different set of circumstances for both parties) With men on the other hand, there can always be doubt as to the biological relationship to the child born of his marriage. Unfortunately, if there is suspicion as to the biological connection, and the man seeks out the truth, he is typically vilified for his questioning the integrity of his spouse.
Secondly, If a man were to actually be made the primary caregiver of his children, and his former spouse were to contest having to pay child support for one of the children based on the fact that she was not the biological mother; what would be the most likely outcome? Simple, she would be considered a step-parent, no consideration would be given to whether or not the biological mother of the child were a part of the child’s life, nor would the parent/child relationship of the former spouse and the child be brought in to the equation. Simply, in the majority of states, step-parents cannot be ordered to pay child support, in Washington State specifically, the obligation of support ends upon termination of the marriage. In reality, the woman in this completely hypothetical scenario would have no obligation to the child. That is not the case for men.
If a wife has an extra-marital affair, becomes pregnant, is successful in convincing her husband that he is in fact the father; he is obligated to support the child. There is no consideration given to biology, there is no possibility to terminating support obligations, he is not considered the “step-father”; he is by law, the father. Even though it was not his sperm that lead to the pregnancy, it is not his offspring he is raising, and every aspect of the relationship he has with the child is based on false information, he is still considered to be the father of the child of his marriage.
The inequality of this is beyond obvious. What is worse, is the child who is being deprived a relationship with his or her biological family. The true biological father, who may or may not realize he has a child is being deprived of the privilege of fatherhood. In some cases, what the mother has done would be called fraud, it would also be called kidnapping, but in the state of Washington, and many other states across America it is called something else…LEGAL.