It’s called “paternity fraud,” and everyone – military men included – would be wise to become informed about this national epidemic.
While this might be an issue that seems disconnected from the American public, other than those affected directly, paternity fraud against our military/veteran population is fraud against the US taxpayer. It hurts those who have made the decision to risk their health and safety for the American people.
Three Quick Tips for Men:
1. Educate yourself on the laws in your state regarding paternity prior to marriage and conception.
2. If you have any doubts about a claim that you fathered a child, contest paternity immediately.
3. Do not sign a paternity acknowledgment form without first obtaining a DNA test.
Throughout the nation, military men are highly vulnerable to paternity fraud. Many unsuspecting men are being duped into believing that they are the fathers of children who actually are not theirs. In many cases this is to take advantage of a military man’s income and benefits.
These men, their families, as well as, the general public may not be familiar with this issue until they, or those they know, become a victim.
“Paternity fraud” can occur in many ways:
Default Judgments – A mother seeking child support or welfare falsely identifies the wrong man as the father, leading to a court date wherein he does not appear and receives a judgment making him monetarily liable to the child.
Erroneous In-Hospital Paternity Acknowledgments – False identification of the true father by a mother who just gave birth. Prompting the proposed father to sign an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” document to become the child’s legal father.
Presumption of Paternity – According to paternity law and common law, it is the legal determination that a husband will be presumed to be a child’s biological father, when a woman becomes pregnant during marriage.
Many people are unaware that there are no requirements for a mother (the one person who knows the true paternity candidates) to truthfully disclose the biological father of their child when applying for welfare and child support. Additionally, they are only required to give a last known address of the man that they disclose as the father. If the man moved then he will not receive a summons for court. When a proposed father doesn’t show up for his court date to establish paternity he will instantly be identified as the father with a default judgment filed against him.
The laws are set up this way, and everyone needs to know this fact … and its impact.
Hospital paternity establishment programs are not geared toward verifying that the man who has been told he is the father really is the father. Hospitals will often ask fathers to sign a “Paternity Acknowledgment” form without offering a DNA test. Once the man suspects he is not the father and does a DNA test, regardless of the outcome, he will still be identified as the father.
Under antiquated, pre-DNA “Presumption of Paternity” statuses, any child born during a marriage is presumed to be the child of the husband.
There is only a small window of time to contest paternity. It could be from one month to two years depending on the residing state. Many men are unaware of the statute of limitations. Deployed military members are often unable to contest. Often they discover they may not be the father after the statute of limitations has passed. Once the deadline has passed, the man can be deemed the legal father and forced to pay child support for 18 or more years.
Because none of the states require a mother who files a claim for child support to advise the court or child-support agencies when another man (other than the one they named) could potentially be the father, thousands of men are paying for support for children who are not be their own.
Scott Flynn, a veteran of the US Army out of Wisconsin, was told by his significant other that she was pregnant with his child. Wanting to do the right thing, Flynn married her based on this information, based on the rising hospital bills, and for the best interest of the child.
Upon a divorce two years later, the mother was awarded designation as the “custodial parent,” which allowed her to make all the decisions around the child, including the custody times granted to Flynn.
The mother later revealed this child was not his. Flynn said, “I was informed the bio-father and the mother knew the identity of the child, but they both decided I was the best fit for the child and passed me on as the father. Why a mother would do this to her own child is just wrong.”
To prove his case, Flynn received DNA test results that proved he was not the father.
Even so, during a court case, the presiding judge informed Flynn that because the case went beyond the statue of limitations and the “presumed paternity” laws he would be liable to the monetary needs of the child. “The judge doesn’t care who pays the child support just as long as they have a name to pin it on,” he says. “The knowledge of me raising another man’s child means nothing to the court just as long as they have a name on the birth certificate … not the fact that I’m being robbed of my current family’s money to pay for the deception. This eats at me every day.”
Flynn believes it’s a lie to claim the court acts in accordance with the best interest of the child, saying, “I am appalled that the justice system is so one-sided.”
Paternity fraud victims are often unable to support their own children or delay having their own children because they are paying for a child they didn’t father. In too many cases, if these “duped dads” fail to pay court ordered child support for another man’s children, they can be sent to jail, even when they have a valid DNA test proving they are not the biological father.
Brandon Parsons is another military man tricked into marrying a woman because he thought he was the father of her child. Even after finding out the truth, Parsons was still alienated from the child with the stipulation that he is financially responsible for the child’s welfare.
In an article “Young Marine Must Continue To Pay Child Support For A Child That Is Not His” Parson’s lawyer, Richard Lowe, stated that on January 22, 2013, San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack ruled that Parsons had to continue paying child support for another twelve years for another man’s child.
In the official court transcripts Pollack stated, “I don’t think that anybody really likes this ruling, but it is the law. So that’s my decision. I’m not happy with it. As I said, it ruined my weekend. It will probably ruin my next weekend if I keep thinking about it. The bottom line is we have to follow the law, and if there’s something about the law that results in a ruling that isn’t fair by contemporary notions of what fairness is, the legislature has to change it.”
The judge went on to say: “I spent a lot of time researching it and it troubles me because it’s a case which, in my mind, fairness and equity take me in one direction, but the law requires me to do something else. And my view of my role as a judge is to follow the law wherever it takes me, and that can cause me to reach a decision that may be unpopular or even subject me to criticisms in the press.”
Parsons was ordered to pay $1,377 per month, approximately one-third of his income. Already paying out $50,000 to support another man’s child, he is on pace to pay over $250,000 over the course of the order. This doesn’t include the legal fees of over $15,000, including the fees his ex-wife requested he cover.
“Even though I made a descent salary, I was living on $38 a month after legal fees, child support, alimony, and medical bills,” he said.
Claiming he ate better in Iraq, Parsons was forced to eat at homeless shelters due to the financial hardships. And Brandon Parsons is not alone. Because of the financial burdens of paternity fraud placed upon military members, many often can’t afford the basics such as food and gas.
“While in Afghanistan I was repeatedly harassed for my portion of medical bills that were often as little as $5,” he said. “I was trying to focus on keeping myself and other marines safe, but instead I had to focus on keeping my ex happy for fear of being sued upon return to the US.”
Aside from the monetary issues, there is also the plight of the children in these cases. These children have the right to know the truth. It is in the best interest of the child and families to have a fair and reasonable paternity establishment system in place. The way it is now, men, women, and children are suffering paternity injustices and are denied the truth.
Said Flynn, “The child is also a victim. She is being robbed of her biological heritage.”
Parsons worries about the emotional well being of the child. Said Parson’s lawyer: “Additionally, on a more egregious level, the child, who Brandon Parsons adamantly maintains is the “biggest loser in all of this,” suffers from chronic hereditary illnesses that neither him or his ex-wife have. Her refusal or inability to name the biological father has greatly inhibited the child from getting the proper care he deserves.”
Willie Henderson, a 20-year veteran who was deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf, received a DNA test that showed zero percent possibility that he was the father of a child, however because the child was born during marriage he was the presumed parent. Says Henderson, “In California a man has to challenge paternity within the first two years or you are stuck. Like what man knows that? How can a convicted murderer get off of death row with DNA evidence but I can’t stop paternity?”
According to Henderson, he will have overall paid $152,000 for a child that is not his. “I have been used for military benefits and financial gain. The military needs to know they are targets and their wages will be garnished even if they are retired,” he says. “States are scared to stop paternity fraud because they don’t want to have to support these women. So we are fighting against the woman, the courts, and the State. It’s impossible to win.”
Paternity Fraud has devastating effects (not only on men) but the women in their lives; their spouses, girlfriends, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, relatives, and especially on children. Women who were lied to about who their biological fathers is — are also paternity fraud victims. People tend to think of “paternity fraud” as just a men’s issue but both “women” and “men” are negatively affected by this issue.
Charlie Manning, a female business owner in Southern California, is also a paternity fraud victim, but in a different way. It wasn’t until she was 50 that she was told by her brother at her father’s funeral that the man she thought was “Daddy” all her life wasn’t her biological father. He did so because she was very close to the man she thought was her biological father and wanted to obtain the military flag at his funeral. Her brother knew Charlie was not his father’s biological child and felt that the flag should go to “the next of kin,” namely him. Says Manning, “No matter how old you are, paternity fraud is extremely painful.”
Manning now supports reforming paternity laws and policies so children and adults aren’t blindsided by a painful truth.
So just how many men are victims in these situations? The only significant insight into the number of paternity fraud victims comes from the American Associations of Blood Blanks, which, year after year, reports that approximately 28 percent of all paternity tests exclude the targeted man.
Some assume that military men are protected by the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSRA), but this is not true. Over the years, in my time as an expert on this issue, I have spoken to numerous victims of paternity fraud in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, National Guard, and the Coast Guard, who are paying child support for children that DNA testing has proven is not theirs.
The impact of this epidemic goes far and wide, beyond the duped men and the children kept from the truth. Taxpayers should also be concerned about this issue since they are paying military benefits for children who are not related to the service member.
Parson’s advice to other military men is to wait to get married until they learn more about the woman with whom they are in relationship. “Just because she is pregnant you shouldn’t feel obligated to marry her. Get to know her, understand her, and live with her. If you have any doubts about the paternity of your child, go get a DNA test before it is too late.”
Despite all that has happened, Parsons still proudly serves his country. He says, “Regardless of what has happened to me, I will always love my country, and as a marine continue to protect it and what it stands for.”
Regarding his paternity fraud case, he has resigned to the fact his search for justice won’t be found in the courts. It’s a truth he wants others to realize. Says Parsons, “This type of lie is very destructive to everyone involved. I now work as an Advisory Member for Women Against Paternity Fraud to reach out and educate people on this issue so this doesn’t happen to you or anyone you know. “
This can’t be underscored enough. This should not be happening to our committed and dedicated military members who fight for our country every day, here and abroad. Why aren’t we helping them in this fight with paternity fraud? The time is now that we do take up the fight. We shall start here – with educating and warning our own military on what is presently happening with what can only be called a national epidemic.
Published 5/19/16 on Vetsfirst.org