By Kiran Thomas, CCMF Volunteer

Paternity fraud occurs where the biological mother knows (or has good reason to believe) that the “father” is not really the biological father, yet she chooses to mislead him as to social father (non-existent) role in the conception of a child. When the social father finds out the truth (and this inevitably occurs after a period of time when the social father has treated the child essentially as his own child), he may choose to apply to the court to cancel any existing child support order. Courts have not been consistent in their approach to this challenge.

Paternity fraud is considered as a seriousfraudulent criminal offense (particularly in the UK, also in certain states of the US). However, a mother is permitted to not state the name of the biological father if (at the time of signing) she does not in fact know the name of the child’s biological father. According to Attorney Gene C. Coleman, paternity fraud is fairly common. Coleman claims that such fraud occurs in up to 15 percent of cases in Canada. However, this number may have been inaccurately circulated due to the following: in studies that solely looked at couples who obtained paternity testing because paternity was being disputed, there are higher levels; an incidence of 17% to 33% (median of 26.9%). Most at risk were those born to younger parents, to unmarried couples and those of lower socio-economic status, or from certain cultural groups. Considered in light of long-held views about sexual behaviour, it exposes the myth of female monogamy and utterly shakes the assumption that women are biologically driven to single-mate bliss.

Father of the child is not the only victim of paternity fraud, it’s the child, the man who was falsely identified as father and the biological father. Of course the others victims are the close relatives: child’s siblings, grandparents etc

This indeed is a violation of a child’s right to know his identity, history and the identity of his biological father. As per United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the child has the right to have relationship both with his father and mother.

Accurate identification of child also leads to tapping into the genetic disorders and history of illness in the family. Umpteen number of cases where an ill child doesn’t get the right medical support since the genetic disorders doesn’t seem to match. In case of adoption this becomes a useful information throughout the lifetime of the adopted child.

Prof. Dickens at U of T said a recent ruling suggests that Canadian courts would discount DNA evidence over the best interests of the child. “If you have acted in a father like way toward a child, then you are the father,” Prof. Dickens said. “Fatherhood is a social reality, not a genetic reality.” Father may not be the man who donated the sperm but who reads bed time stories to the child. But the question here is where the father himself knows that truth. May be a father’s rights are not as important as mother’s right…

Is fatherhood just a matter of biology? Of course not – when a man has filled the social, emotional, and psychological role of a father for a child for some period of time, then for all intents and purposes he is the father and child support payments can be fairly demanded (but does that exclude any obligation from the biological father? Another interesting question…). If, however, he has done little more than fill the financial role of father by sending in such payments, then proof that he isn’t the biological father should be sufficient grounds to end those payments. Fatherhood may be more than just a matter of biology, but it’s also more than a matter of a monthly check as well.