In California, paternity fraud is committed by an expectant mother who intentionally lies about the paternity of the father of the child.

If for any reason a man does not believe he fathered a child, paternity tests can clear up discrepancies and alleviate child custody battles that might emerge. While DNA testing is extremely helpful in confirming or denying the paternity of a child, there are court cases in California that suggest paternity cases are not always clear-cut.

Related: How to Establish Parentage in California

A Deep Dive into some California Paternity Fraud Cases

Paternity fraud cases can bring forth a range of emotions. Aside from the implications that come with the news that one has been paying child support for a child that is not his, chances are that the “father” had a relationship with the child that will likely be impacted by this news. Additionally, trust can be broken between the man and the child’s biological mother, regardless of the relationship status of these two people. Strained relationships as a result of paternity fraud can be complicated and devastating for everyone involved, especially as legal battles are sparked. A common example of legal proceedings that follow involve reimbursement of child support payments to men who were victims of paternity fraud.

Singer Ne-Yo’s former girlfriend claimed a child was his for years, but a DNA paternity test ultimately proved that he was not the biological father. However, the state of California considered Ne-Yo to be the “father” since he fulfilled that role in the child’s life. Therefore, since he acted as the “father” to the child, the state-recognized his responsibility to financially support the child as if he were the biological father.

In the case Tate v. Wilburn, the California Supreme Court refused to review a homeless man, Hari L. Wilburn’s case, who was falsely named a father of a five-year-old. The state never confirmed his paternity, yet he was ordered to pay child support. Although a DNA paternity test confirmed he was not the father in 2008, and he never fulfilled a paternal role in the child’s life, the court decided that the biological mother was still entitled to child support payments.

Related: Filing and Obtaining a Paternity Judgement in California

Relevant laws

It is most important to note that the existing California law permits a child, their biological mother, or a man presumed to be the father to investigate the existence of paternity between the father and child. A father is “presumed” if he and the biological mother of the child are married. Existing state law also allows a local child support agency to administer and require genetic testing to determine paternity in incidents where it is contested.

An extensive breakdown of existing child paternity laws and of potential amendments to the laws in California can be found here.

Related: Paternity Laws in California: Unmarried Father’s Rights

Statistics

Research has shown that it is difficult to pinpoint an exact number of paternity cases per year in California, or in any state for that matter. What we do know is that the United States Department of Health and Human Services spends about $4 billion on child support enforcement and that a credible insight into paternity fraud cases can be identified from the American Associations of Blood Banks. In 2000, the AABB confirmed that approximately 28% of all paternity tests (of the 158,000 in California) exclude the targeted man. Admittedly, these findings were discovered roughly 20 years ago, so these numbers have likely changed. The ambiguity surrounding these statistics suggest that paternity fraud cases are complicated with some gray area.

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