Weblog archive for August 2005

1st August 2005

Happy 4th birthday to this web site!

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you!

This web site is now four years old. It continues to be updated every few days with news about child support in the UK and elsewhere, plus other related news such as paternity testing, fathers' rights after separation, contraception, paternity fraud, etc.

It would be good to claim that this web site has been able to help make an improvement to the UK's child support system. Unfortunately, at the moment the system is so faulty that nothing appears able to make a difference. In fact, the CSA appears to be "festering", with little sign of progress because the computer system needed to reveal progress isn't working properly! (It is hiding its own failings).

In the 12 years of the CSA, there has typically been either denial ("the CSA is OK, it is all the problem of deadbeat dads"), or revolution ("there is a major change on the way that will make it work OK"). But this is not the case at the moment. Everyone knows the CSA is not OK. And there isn't a major change on the way that will improve things. There is simply the most administratively incompetent government agency in living memory, continuing to be exactly that. With no one saying if, let alone when, it will relinquish that "honour".

Clipart by Bobbie Peachey

2nd August 2005

Catholic order pledges more child support for cleric's 12-year-old

Whittier, California. Could it happen here?

He had a child. Then he took a vow of poverty. So the child support assessment was low! Now the catholic order that accepted him has agreed to help support a disabled child.

A Roman Catholic religious order that had until now refused to increase child support payments for a boy fathered by one of its priests pledged Wednesday to provide additional financial support and counseling for the 12-year-old.

Father Thomas Picton, who heads the Denver Province of the Redemptorists, said he would also encourage the Whittier priest, Arturo Uribe, to get counseling to learn how to be a proper father.

This month, Stephanie Collopy, the boy's mother, fought unsuccessfully in court for increased child support payments from Uribe. She argued that, as an unemployed single parent of a child with chronic asthma and other health problems, she needed more than the court-ordered $323 a month paid by the Redemptorists. She also asked that Uribe be ordered to provide health insurance for the boy. The judge ruled that because Uribe had taken a vow of poverty - he receives a monthly allowance of $100 plus room, board and the use of a car - he could not be ordered to pay more child support....

After learning that she was pregnant, Collopy tried various methods to get Uribe or his superiors to provide adequate child support. In 1992, she sued the Archdiocese of Portland and the Redemptorists for $200,000, alleging that Uribe breached his fiduciary duty as someone who "performed pastoral duties for the archdiocese."

Under the direction of Portland's archbishop at the time, William J. Levada, church attorneys tried to get the suit dismissed in 1994 on several grounds. In a motion, they argued that the "birth of the plaintiff's child and the resultant expenses ... are the result of the plaintiff's own negligence" because she engaged in "unprotected intercourse."

Levada, now in his final month as the archbishop of San Francisco, was recently named head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican position that makes him chief guardian of Roman Catholic doctrine worldwide. That position was previously held by Cardinal Joseph A. Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

8th August 2005

No alternative to the CSA

Mrs K... strongly feels, perhaps rightly, that direct action by her against her former husband would have yielded more satisfactory results. 

LORD BINGHAM OF CORNHILL

I appreciate the force of her complaint that the agency has failed to take action within a reasonable time to enforce the assessments. But, as article 6(1) is not engaged, the conclusion must be that the agency cannot be said to have acted unlawfully within the meaning of section 7(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998. The result is that that Act cannot provide her with a remedy. 

LORD HOPE OF CRAIGHEAD

But if I am right that the children's civil rights to be properly maintained by their parents are engaged, it follows that the public authority which is charged by Parliament with securing the determination and enforcement of their rights is under a duty to act compatibly with their article 6 right to the speedy determination and effective enforcement of those rights... I would allow this appeal.... 

BARONESS HALE OF RICHMOND

The only right now enjoyed by those in Mrs K...'s position is to look to the CSA for the proper discharge of its public law obligations under the statute.... 

LORD BROWN OF EATON-UNDER-HEYWOOD

This case has been progressing for a very long time. Recently it got as far as an appeal to the House of Lords. The opinion of the majority of the Lords of Appeal was that the appeal should be dismissed. Presumably that is the end. But this judgment reveals that there are still vestiges of earlier legislation that confuse the issue.

The parent with care believes that it is wrong that she should be forced to use the CSA instead of being able to pursue a more effective course, as she would have been able to do before the CSA began in 1993. As what appears to be a last resort, she invoked Human Rights legislation to make her case. It didn't work.

The government didn't simply supplement existing methods with a new method called the CSA. It replaced many of the existing methods in the process, even before the CSA had been proven.

This illustrates that when government decides to replace existing systems with "centralised" / "government" systems, it needs to make sure they work. Good intentions are not enough - there must be good implementation too. Vast amounts of money have been poured into the CSA, only to cause many children (and parents) to be worse off than if it had never existed.

9th August 2005

A paternity test in the comfort of your home!

DNA Bioscience has launched a new partnership with Advantage Healthcare Group enabling them to deploy a trained nurse from Advantage Healthcare's network of 7,000 workers anywhere in the country to collect a DNA sample.

They say: "there is growing demand for trained nurses to collect DNA samples from the home, especially for children in foster care, where the foster carer has several children in their charge and cannot take one child to a GP or our walk-in clinic easily. Other potential scenarios include newborn babies needing a paternity test, where it's not convenient or easy for the new mum to get to the doctors. At the other end of the spectrum, home visits are ideal for ethnicity or relationship tests required for asylum appeals and where the applicant is not registered with a GP, or who don't speak English and have difficulties communicating. Some people are too embarrassed to ask their doctors about DNA tests, while others are worried about using home testing kits incorrectly. Accuracy and discretion are critical".

PR Newswire Europe Ltd, "DNA Bioscience Brings Breakthrough in Home DNA Testing"

11th August 2005

Yet another survey of misattributed paternity rates!

We know infidelity breaks up families. Twenty per cent of divorces feature claims of infidelity by one or both partners. There are issues about the mental health of the father, or the person who thought he was the father, as well as the woman and the child. More and more people are taking these tests and they may receive some of the most fundamental information about themselves and their closest relatives for which they are unprepared. We have not looked at the consequences of giving this information, or withholding it. 

Professor Mark Bellis, chief author of the study

People seek testing for a wide range of reasons. Siblings want to know about the paternity of their brothers and sisters and women as well as men want to find out. Sometimes if there have been two possible fathers, women will pick the most solvent one. But they still want to know who the father of their child really is. 

Avi Lasarow, the managing director of DNA Bioscience

We will raise the issue about whether they have thought about the consequences both for them and all those involved. Very often they are quite distressed and they want someone to talk to. By the time they get the results a lot of people have prepared themselves. But it's a very emotional process, even if the result is the one they wanted. In an ideal world, everyone should have counselling and it should be available on the NHS. Unfortunately, it's not. 

Rebecca Webster, a counsellor for DNA Bioscience

In our own company we have seen this work rising by about 10 per cent year on year. It is an extremely serious area and it is a very interesting question as to what rights a child has to know his own identity. 

David Hartshorne, a biologist and the commercial director of Cellmark

The importance lies not so much in the figure itself but in the implications, given that as a society we are increasingly making our decisions on the basis of genetics. If, for example, someone knows that their father had a history of hereditary heart disease, they might be tempted to alter their own diet. Obviously they need to be making that decision on the basis of accurate information about who their father really is. 

Professor Mark Bellis, chief author of the study

Another survey of research into "misattributed paternity" has come to similar conclusions to two other recent surveys. This latest survey by Professor Mark Bellis suggests the rate of misattributed paternity across the population as a whole is probably less than 4%. That is, statistics suggest that about 3.7% of children have a biological father other than the man who thinks he is their father.

This is different from what the news articles typically erroneously say, such as "One in 25 'fathers' raises another man's child". Many families have more than one child, so if the misattributed children surveyed are spread evenly across families, rather more than 3.7% of families have at least one such child. But if such children are clustered into fewer families, there may be fewer than 3.7% of families with such a child. Another important considerations is for every "false" father identified through testing there will be a true biological father elsewhere, possibly with a family of his own.

This rate of 3.7% is the concluded rate for the population as a whole. The rate is higher in "at risk" groups, such as dysfunctional and broken families, and in those cases it is probably at least 10%.

A recent paper by Professor Michael Gilding in Australia suggests the rate for the general population is from 1% to 3% in Western countries. Another by Dr Kermyt G. Anderson suggests the rate is from 1.9% to 3.9%. All of these papers are summarised at a page on this web site, below. They mostly use other papers and articles also listed at this page. That is probably why this consensus is arising - they are all doing similar scans of all known literature going back 50 or more years.

(The much-quoted statistic published the American Association of Blood Banks, typically about 28%, is not an indication of what the rate is for the population as a whole. They make that clear themselves. It isn't even the rate for misattributed paternity in broken families. It is just the proportion of exclusions from paternity tests by accredited laboratories, and few deductions can be made from that).

18th August 2005

Paternity test statistics from the Child Support Agency

Records of DNA tests would be held by the courts on the individual case files. You should note that there is no right of access under the Freedom of Information ACT to information contained in court records (by virtue of section 32(1) of the FOI Act). 

Her Majesty's Courts Service

The CSA can administer paternity tests in many cases where men who have been identified by mothers want confirmation. Child Support Analysis has obtained the statistics for these tests for the last 7 years. (This used the Freedom of Information Act).

The results were in the range 14% to 20%. (The mean was about 16%).

(Specifically, they were 1998/1999: 15.2%. 1999/2000: 19.8%. 2000/2001: 14.0%. 2001/2002: 14.2%. 2002/2003: 16.6%. 2003/2004: 15.4%. 2004/2005: 15.4%).

Paternity testing statistics from the AABB (American Association of Blood Banks), which includes results from some services outside the USA, typically shows an exclusion rate of about 27% or more. Why are the CSA's figures rather lower than the AABB figures? It may be that Americans are more promiscuous than the British! But some of the difference is probably caused by the different circumstances. The CSA's figures were specifically for child support cases. The AABB's figures were for all sorts of cases, probably including many cases where a mother simply didn't know which of two or more men was the father, and wanted to find out. Or where a court needed to resolve a "presumption of paternity" case that was certain to give a negative result. The AABB's figures do not show the rate of non-paternity in the population being considered.

(Requests under the Freedom of Information Act for equivalent figures from the family court system failed, because there is no central record kept).

26th August 2005

Continuing saga of mother who wants to sue the CSA

It's now becoming a case of great importance, it's not seen as just £7,000. If it could be established that they owed this responsibility, this duty of care, then it could have a wider significance for other cases. 

Alison Davies

I am satisfied that the part of the claim that relies on negligent misstatement should be allowed to proceed to trial. 

Judge Philip Hughes, sitting at Warrington County Court

This adds to a Blog for 8th February 2005. Alison Davies is still taking the CSA to court next year over the issue of negligent misstatements (misleading statements) by the CSA.

The CSA believe they can't afford to lose this case! (See also the other case that was apparently decided in the CSA's favour recently - Blog for 8th August 2005).

"A MOTHER suing the Child Support Agency says the government body has spent £45,000 challenging her in court even though her claim only amounts to about £7,000.

"Alison Davies is still on course to fight the CSA in a High Court battle at Chester next summer after alleging it failed to calculate the full maintenance payment she was owed by her ex-husband. And Mrs Davies, a mother-of-three, from Crowton, near Frodsham, is asking for permission to appeal against an earlier decision that the CSA did not owe her a duty of care.

"If she is successful in this latter battle, it could help up to 280,000 disgruntled parents who claim the CSA has made incorrect assessments.

"That's why she believes the CSA is prepared to fight her all the way despite the mounting legal bill."

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