Paternity Un(Certainty): How the Law Surrounding Paternity Challenges Negatively Impacts Family Relationships and Women's Sexuality

35 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2016 Last revised: 23 Oct 2016

See all articles by Susan Ayres

Susan Ayres

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2016

Abstract

It is popularly believed that false paternity rates are 10-30%, and that thousands of unsuspecting men are supporting children who are not theirs. These reported rates of false paternity have become urban legend, demonizing women as over-sexualized partners who shouldn’t be trusted. This in turn has influenced laws regarding paternity, which have evolved to allow men to dis-establish paternity years after a child’s birth, even when there has been an adjudication or acknowledgment of paternity. This article argues that society should be cautious about elevating science as the highest consideration in truth claims about paternity. It examines the incoherent and inconsistent nature of family law concerning paternity challenges, and it illustrates ways modern cases elide the reasons a woman might keep paternity questions secret — for instance, when women have been subjected to domestic violence or sexual assault. Challenges to paternity involve complex factors which should not be reduced to the results of a DNA test.

Keywords: Paternity, Family Law, Law and Gender, Domestic Violence, Genetic Testing, DNA

JEL Classification: K36

Suggested Citation

Ayres, Susan, Paternity Un(Certainty): How the Law Surrounding Paternity Challenges Negatively Impacts Family Relationships and Women's Sexuality (September 1, 2016). Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, Vol. 20, Forthcoming; Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16-51. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2844974

Susan Ayres (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States

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