When Daddy Doesn't Want to Be Daddy Anymore: An Argument Against Paternity Fraud Claims

49 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2005

See all articles by Melanie B. Jacobs

Melanie B. Jacobs

University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law


Paternity fraud is a growing phenomenon. Many men who have either been adjudicated fathers or who have voluntarily acknowledged their paternal legal status are now challenging the propriety of those legal determinations because genetic testing subsequently revealed their nonpaternity. Responding to growing concerns from men who no longer wish to pay child support for their nonbiological children, a growing number of states, by case or statute, permit men to disestablish paternity if they successfully offer scientific proof - i.e., DNA test results - that demonstrate a genetic impossibility of paternity.

Advances in paternity testing causes us to re-examine the legal and policy justifications for redefining families. The structure of the American family has undergone dramatic change in recent years and the numbers of traditional nuclear families are in decline while single-parent families and stepfamilies are growing. In an era in which individuals and couples, heterosexual and homosexual, are embracing new reproductive technologies to create families, the biological connection often does not assist in establishing legal parentage for intended parents. Couples and individuals alike may contract with sperm donors, egg donors, and/or gestational surrogates to create families. As a result, reliance on biology as the sole means by which to determine legal parentage no longer makes sense. Functional parenthood - emphasizing the daily, routine, and even mundane aspects of everyday parenting - provides a more realistic approach to defining legal parentage, especially for nontraditional families.

In addressing the issue of paternity fraud claims, this Article endeavors to reconcile two competing theoretical trends in family law: biology versus functionality. As discussed herein, many courts and scholars embrace functionality in the context of establishing parental relationships yet place emphasis on biology in disestablishing parental relationships. While the differences between seeking to establish a child-parent relationship and disestablishing such a relationship are noted and discussed, they are nonetheless synthesized to encourage one family law model, rather than two. This Article offers readers a fresh perspective not only regarding paternity fraud claims but modern family law generally, by seeking middle-ground between the legal foci of biology and functionality. My proposal for resolving paternity fraud claims involves a balancing between the competing interests of a legal, yet nonbiological father, and his child.

Suggested Citation

Jacobs, Melanie B., When Daddy Doesn't Want to Be Daddy Anymore: An Argument Against Paternity Fraud Claims. MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 02-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=578573

Melanie B. Jacobs (Contact Author)

University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law ( email )

Wilson W. Wyatt Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
United States

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