What is Paternity Fraud?

T. Broderick

Paternity fraud is when a mother demands child support from a man when she knows or believes he is not the father. Out of all men paying child support, roughly 3.7 percent are not the father. A nonstandard set of laws concerning parental rights and obligations can make it very difficult for a man to fight paternity fraud. Besides the fraud itself, a false paternity claim has other harms to society at large.

A man who suspects paternity fraud should request a paternity test.
A man who suspects paternity fraud should request a paternity test.

Almost 4 percent of men making child support payment are victims of paternity fraud. As the act of fraud requires the mother to know or suspect that the man is not the father, it is likely that the percentage of men paying child support to children that are not theirs is a higher number. When a man suspects paternity fraud, he will first demand a paternity test. For men testing due to suspicions of paternity, the median result is that 26.9 percent of men will find out that they are not the father.

Various laws in the United States and worldwide make it difficult for some men to stop supporting children who are not theirs. For example, in some places the husband of a woman who had an affair would still be responsible for a child if the woman became pregnant by another man. Other jurisdictions have statutes of limitations concerning a man's right to contest paternity. A man who waited too long before filing a lawsuit would still have to make payments even if a DNA test proved he was not the father. Men who suspect they are supporting children that are not theirs should check the paternity laws of their state or nation without delay.

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There consequences of paternity fraud go deeper than the crime initially suggests. Though the man who is not the father may genuinely love a child who is not his, the later realization of this fact has the potential to tear apart the father/child relationship. After that, the child may not have a supporting male role model. Similarly, the true father does not know that a child another man is supporting is actually his. There is no opportunity for that man to live up to his obligation as a father.

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