At the start of a child support proceeding, a judge will ask a single parent who files for child support whether paternity has been established for the child. If the father has signed the child's birth certificate, that is considered sufficient proof of acknowledgment of paternity. However, if paternity remains a question, a judge will order a paternity test. If a paternity test reveals a different biological father than anticipated, a mother may be accused of paternity fraud. Let's explore some more details about paternity fraud:
Definition of Paternity Fraud
Paternity fraud occurs when a mother identifies a man as the biological father of her child, knowing that he is not biologically linked to the child. Additionally, a mother can suspect that her child does not belong to the father she named on the birth certificate, without knowing with certainty, and still be accused of paternity fraud.
Child Support and Paternity Fraud
Unfortunately, it is the court's decision to determine whether a father who has been paying for child support for a number of years and later finds out he was not the child's biological father, should continue to pay child support. A court may do one of the following:
- Cease further child support payments
- Order a continuation of child support payments
Court's Rationale in Ordering Future Child Support in Paternity Fraud Cases
A court may order a father who is not the biological parent of a child to continue child support payments because:
- The father has supported a child for a period of time and has acted as the child's father and/or
- The child still needs to be supported despite parentage, as the court fears the child becoming a public charge if the child support does not continue
- Continued child support payments serve the best interests of the child
Information for Fathers Who Are Victims of Paternity Fraud
Fathers who are victims of paternity fraud should attempt to seek an action in civil court to collect child support funds back from the child's mother. However, this is generally considered a long shot.
Consequences for a Parent Accused of Paternity Fraud
Unfortunately, there are no consequences for mothers who commit paternity fraud. Paternity fraud is not considered a punishable crime, and it's extremely difficult to collect or recollect funds from a mother who is accused of paternity fraud.
Any parent who suspects that his coparent has committed paternity fraud should seek a DNA test immediately. In addition, allow a court to determine appropriate consequences for the parent accused of paternity fraud.
Parents who want more information about child support should refer to the specific child support guidelines in their state. Parents can also refer to additional resources about paternity. Most importantly, parents should speak with a qualified attorney, who will help a single parent navigate a child support case.