"Paternity fraud" is different from "misattributed paternity". Unfortunately, they are sometimes confused with one another.
Misattributed paternity refers to the non-judgemental identification of children who have a biological father other than the man who thinks he is the biological father. Professor Michael Gilding estimated a rate for the total population of 1%-3%, and identified possible rates for "at risk" groups of perhaps 10% or more.
Paternity fraud refers to cases where men, and/or an agency, are deceived in order to obtain money from them, for example via the child support system. Whether there are any such cases in the population that are not at risk depends on one's definition. There are certainly cases of paternity fraud in the at-risk population, and some are well known. Indeed, there is the likelihood that paternity fraud goes back at least 400 years in England!
The term "paternity fraud" is sometimes used elsewhere in broader senses. Some uses include all cases of misattributed paternity, even where the man and woman are still together, and possibly where there is doubt rather than deception. Other uses include deception or secrecy where there may be no direct gain. But broad uses of the term devalue it, and they can obviously lead to confusion. "Fraud" normally refers to a deliberate deception, and one specifically intended for significant gain. Most users would accept that "deception to obtain child support" is an example of "paternity fraud", even though some users include other examples. An article here by Dr Leslie Cannold appears to use it in this sense.
The following, from New Zealand Law Commission, Report 88 , is mainly about "misattributed paternity", but clearly also applies to "paternity fraud":
No one knows. No one has researched how many cases there are in any particular country, and Professor Michael Gilding didn't identify any potential quantities. And how likely is it that reliable figures could be determined for fraud, whether criminal fraud or not?
The rate differs from country to country, and time to time, see below. It is partly under the control of governments, because it depends on the opportunities and deterents provided in law.
Paternity fraud is not just a phenomenon of "Western" countries. For example, the High Court of Gujarat reports on a conference on "Impact Of New Biology On Justice Delivery System: Issues Relating To Dna Finger Printing, Intellectual Property Rights And Ethical, Legal, Social Implications", and mentions paternity fraud. [13.3]
Paternity fraud is not new!
One of the most obvious examples of potential patermity fraud occurred just over 2000 years ago. The fact that people talk about "the Virgin Mary" implies that many people believe that Joseph was not the father of Jesus. Virgin birth is nonsense, and people who believe in it should be ashamed of themselves! I wish we could use paternity testing to identify who Mary had sex, with leading to Jesus. There has been much speculation about this, but no conclusions. Who was Jesus really the son of?
Once laws allowed or required mothers with illegitimate children to name the father, so that he would support her or recompense whatever organisation was supporting her, the opportunity existed for paternity fraud. (Such a law was enacted in 1576 in England). Unless all of those mothers were honest, which is implausible, some of them would lie or hide their doubts. (Some also appear to have used blackmail, to which men were vulnerable until the availability of paternity tests). Here is an early possibility, from Alan Macfarlane :
Parish Poor Law Overseers usually tried to establish the name of the father of an illegitimate child so that he could be made to pay weekly amounts to the mother and thus spare the Roor Rate funds. (These might be covered by "orders of affiliation", "bastardy bonds", or "bastardy recognisance". Several cases are mentioned in Quarter Session records). Sometimes the mothers themselves changed their stories, such as this case from a BBC programme in 2001 :
Sometimes there were disputes, as described here from a history of Berkshire . Who can know the truth after all this time? But do we believe that all men were 100% honest? Or that all women were 100% honest? Neither is plausible!
Experiences of paternity fraud dramatically influenced England's "New Poor Law" of 1834:
- From The Finer Report :
- From Dorothy L. Haller :
- Small extract from Poor Law Commissioners' Report of 1834 :
This illustrates why the rate of paternity fraud differs from country to country, and time to time. It depends on: the opportunities provided by the laws of a country for women, or men, to benefit financially by deception about paternity; and the penalties that might deter those who are tempted by these opportunities. For example, the 1834 Act largely removed the opportunity, and instead of getting financial assistance, a woman with an illegitimate child typically had to go to a workhouse. Alternatively, severe penalties for paternity fraud would reduce the rate in a country even if the opportunity remained. Use of paternity tests in 100% of child support cases would be another mechanism.
The UK has one of the worst child support agencies in the world. That is why this website exists. But it has perhaps one of the world's most enlightened uses of paternity testing as part of its child support system. It is normally easy to obtain a paternity test at an early stage in the claim process, and even when the test comes later, a refund of monies paid so far can be obtained. As a result, "paternity fraud", a hot topic in the USA, and now pretty warm in Australia too, hardly gets a mention in the UK.
It isn't obvious how the UK arrived at this position. It was UK common law that was used as a precedent for the "presumption of paternity" laws in some other countries. This common law is still sometimes quoted as a justification for this principle in the USA. But, at an early stage of developing child support as an administrative process in the UK, the determination of responsibility for child support became a mechanistic procedure. The CSA even offers a reduced price for paternity tests if the man pays in advance! (He then gets a refund if the test is negative). Perhaps the UK's CSA came at the right time, later than the schemes in other countries. But another factor may be that it was partly targeted at children born out of wedlock, where an identification other than "the ex husband" is needed.
The UK has a poor record for discrimination against men in the family courts. It has a child support system that has made a mess of the lives of many men. UK women have the same sexual and reproductive freedoms as other Western nations, including quite liberal abortion laws. But UK men don't use cries of "paternity fraud" as symbols of their situation, nor as retaliation against the women who they perceive have wronged them. A topic which is explosive in other countries has been defused by reasonably rational use of paternity testing. There is a lesson here.
 New Zealand Law Commission, Report 88, April 2005, "New Issues in Legal Parenthood", section 4.19
 Lisa Spurrier, "Bastardy in Berkshire"
 "Report of the Committee on One-Parent Families" (aka "The Finer Report"), July 1974, Volume 2, Appendix 5, drawing upon 
 Hargreaves U.R.Q., "Bastardy and the New Poor Law", Past and Present, Number 37, 1967.
 "Illegitimacy and illegitimates in English history". (PDF), Alan Macfarlane, copyright 2002.
 BBC, "Surnames, Genes and Genealogy", Radio 4, Tuesdays 11.00-11.30 a.m., 19 June - 17 July 2001. The case of Elizabeth Curl is mentioned in 
 Catherine Nash, "GENETIC KINSHIP"
Claimed reply to a CSA form:
|Page last updated: 16 March, 2006||© Copyright Barry Pearson 2006|