The Best-Case Scenario if the State Falsely Accuses You of Paternity …


… is that you'll be out $1,500 in non-recoverable lawyer bills. The worst case is much worse. Also, not everybody has $1,500 lying around to fix mistakes made by a government that does not give a shit.

NEXT: But These Welfare Queens Are Manly!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I heard Matt talk about this issue on Kim Serafin’s show, and I had really mixed feelings when I heard Matt talking about it.

    …On one hand, this form of obvious injustice needs to be stamped into the ground and should be publicized; on the other hand, I know some seriously deranged women–I think they already stay up late at night tryin’ to think up new ways of ruinin’ guys lives, and I sure as hell don’t need them gettin’ any new ideas!

    Seriously, this has got to be every guy’s worst nightmare.

  2. It’s not hard to believe the parts of the story dealing with incompetency, but I still find it hard to believe that there can be no possible repurcussions on the mother, who was making obviously fraudulent claims.

    About 6 years ago, somebody submitted a bank account application in Phoenix (I live in Dallas) with my SSN. Some software or database somewhere detected that something might be wrong and I was contacted through my own bank, but for some reason the proof of identity burden was on me, not this other joker. I can’t remember the details of what I had to do, but it involved phone calls, letters, trips to offices, etc.

  3. In prosecuting child abuse/neglect cases in Florida, we were required to serve papers on the father of any child involved in a case. As you might imagine, some of the mothers were hard pressed to name the fathers and sometimes gave rather long lists of potential fathers for each child. We then served papers on these men. Many were the irate gentlemen whose wives had opened the mail to learn that their husbands had sired one or more offspring with some crack prostitute. They did not have to defend themselves or anything, but it was pretty hard for them to explain sometimes.

    One woman could not give the names of fathers for her five children. In open court, the judge asked her about this. “Well, Judge”, she said, “Did you ever go to a party, have too much to drink and wake up pregnant?” “Certainly not five times”, said the judge who declared John Doe to be the father and directed publication of the complaint.

  4. Welfare Reform Act of 1996, eh? Just shows Clinton was a bigger dick than we thought. Thanks a lot for the life saving info, Matt.

  5. Sorry, shouldn’t have dragged Clinton into it. Just a flash of rage, that’s all. Obviously it is the occasional jackass bureacratics who are responsible for this outrage. I wonder if this highly immoral act is taught to DA’s?

  6. Have any of these non-babydaddies tried suing the mothers in question?

  7. Keeping in mind that a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. How difficult would it be, if one was 100% certain the children were not his, for someone to make the calls his lawyers did, demand a paternity test, wait for the results to say that you are not the father and save yourself $1,500? I?m sure it?s not that simple, but does it require an expensive lawyer?

  8. Mo-

    I think the thing about the lawyer is that he’ll know when to call bullshit. If they say “In order to get the DNA test you have to jump through the following hoops”, the lawyer will know which of those hoops are bogus and which aren’t. And they’ll also be more respectful and helpful for the lawyer.

    It’s a pretty sweet gig to be a lawyer in a society that’s so full of rules and regulations. Even an indisputably innocent person can’t just make a phone call and say “Hey, I’m innocent, and I know for a fact that the DNA test will prove it, so tell me which lab you’d like me to go to.”

  9. As bad as the government will dick you over when you have a lawyer, they will absolutely steamroll you when you don’t. It ain’t right, but it is so.

  10. “Have any of these non-babydaddies tried suing the mothers in question?”

    I don’t believe the mother is making any accusations. She simply gives a list of guys who might be the father–under what I think most people would agree is duress–and the local welfare agency metes out the injustice. Sometimes the agency finds the wrong guy with the same name.

    …at any rate, how much money can you reasonably expect to collect from a welfare mother anyway?

  11. but that’s not fraud of some sort?

    what about suing the state welfare agency?

  12. Ken-
    Who cares about the money? Anybody who would make an innocent person suffer like that deserves to go to jail for fraud. And as for the thought that this might harm the children; well, any kid with such a mother is probably doomed anyway.

    Bear in mind, in the case linked to above the woman had never even MET the man in question.

  13. Saw-whet: Yes you should have dragged Clinton into it. This is directly tracable to the policies of his presidency. As are a lot of eminent domain abuse cases.
    It takes a village to fuck you.

  14. I agree your chances of having your fees paid by a welfare mom aren’t great, but as long as there are no repurcussions for this type of fraud (still assuming that’s what it was), they’ll keep doing it. Go after them with jail time.

    Any sort of countersuit might help. Some woman filed a rape claim against a local pro athlete 7-8 years ago and, unlike many of them, he responded immediately with his own countersuit, which scared her straight. She withdrew her false allegations.

    I also like dhex’s suggestion of going after the welfare agency. Even if that doesn’t win you any reimbursements, enough bad publicity might get the laws changed.

  15. Defamation suits seem like an option.

  16. Perhaps I’m drawing on the case Welch talked about on the radio (and maybe he can verify this for me) but in many cases, it’s strictly a case of mistaken identity by the welfare agency.

    How many Jose Gonalezes are there in Los Angeles County? The welfare agency finds someone–anyone–with that name and sends him a letter, and if he doesn’t respond–for whatever reason–he’s the daddy. …And you only get so long to prove that you’re not the daddy. In many of these cases, the mother herself will and does testify that the defendant isn’t the father; indeed, in many of these cases the mother will assist by providing a genetic sample from the child proving that the man in question is not the father, but after an arbitrary deadline, that doesn’t matter!

  17. From what I understand/remember, it is technically perjury, I guess because the County Child Support agent makes the mom sign something like “to the best of my non-existent recollection, it’s this dude.” That said, no one I’ve ever talked to has ever recalled a single case of a mother being charged with perjury.

    Also, a few states (I think) have passed, or are at least considering, “Paternity Fraud” legislation, in which mothers who are proven to have deliberately named the wrong guy are liable for at least damages.

    But when I talked through a test case with one of California’s top DCSS lawyers, I asked “well, what if the mother names the wrong guy?”, and her response was basically A) we don’t make the laws, we enforce them (read: we’ll collect that money from the non-custodial non-father until a judge tells us not to), and B) if the judge tells us not to, we’ll go back to the mother and try to get another “discrete” name. Not much of a punishment mechanism there for *anybody*, except the poor bastard who was wrongly named in the first place. Oh, and the child, of course.

  18. Ken — Don’t forget that in many counties and states (Los Angeles and California included), DCSS does not need to show proof of service. So, you can send a summons to Jose Gonzales, it ends up over at Matt Welch’s house (because Jose has moved, or because the server is a moron), and in 30 days Jose’s a new daddy. He’ll probably find out when his wages or garnished, or his driver’s license is not renewed, or his passport is revoked.

  19. Yeah, but Ken, it’s not like they pick just ANY Jose Gonzales. They make sure that he’s hispanic and dark-haired as well. And they usually try to get the age right, plus or minus 20 years.

  20. There is a Life in Hell cartoon where Bongo is looking up with a terrified expression on his face. His parents are confronting him, their shadows cast on his face and on the floor, and he says, “I swear to God I didn’t do it.”

  21. Guess I’ll have to give my first kid a name so unique there won’t be any chance of mistaken identity. Ivana Mandic changed her name, right? So that one might be available?

  22. I don’t think it is fair to blame Clinton for this tragedy. The welfare reform law he signed was put together by the Republicans in Congress, who are proud to take credit.

    And in fact, this kind of reform has been advocated by Republicans for many years. In 1966 when I worked in the Reagan for Governor campaign, the local GOP candidate for Assembly proposed a law like this.

    It seems a good idea, until the government tries to implement it.

  23. “It seems a good idea, until the government tries to implement it.”

    I’m not sure you can blame welfare reform for this either; it’s the ol’ unintended consequences phenomenon–there are so many variables. That’s why public policy almost always sucks.

    P.S. …Of course, unknown variables aren’t a problem in foreign policy–everything that happens as a result of our efforts in other countries is perfectly predictable.

  24. The clash between centuries of common law and modern genetic testing shouldn’t be a clash at all. The common law ways of establishing paternity just are not needed anymore.

  25. “The common law ways of establishing paternity just are not needed anymore.”

    I suspect this injustice is a function of the crackdown on deadbeat dads as much as anything else.

    …It’s about the madness of crowds.

    “Oh, we got trouble
    right here in River City
    with a capital “T” and that rhymes with…”

    “D” and that stands for Dead Beat Dads or Drugs or…

    …or “T” and that stands for Terrorism!

    “…our children’s children gonna have
    trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble

    …Devil’s tool!

  26. P.S. …Of course, unknown variables aren’t a problem in foreign policy–everything that happens as a result of our efforts in other countries is perfectly predictable.

    I’m glad to see that you’ve finally learned to love freedom and endorse our President’s War on Terror! 😉

  27. You think it’s bad being the guy who is wrongly accused? Try being the guy who actually fathered the kid…

    My dealings with Child Support Enforcment has been everything bad about gov’t and bureaucracy. The funny thing is that the system was originally set up for people who failed to pay, and now everyone who has a support obligation is treated like a scumbag who doesn’t want to support his/her children.

    If you’re divorced and the other party has primary custody, expect that you’ll be dealing with an organization that is legally allowed to arbitrarily change the rules, the amount you owe, and has the ability to take pretty much as much as they would like from your paycheck on what boils down to the whim of the case worker.

    Even if my ex-wife pointed out to the CS case worker that I’ve overpaid due to bad book-keeping on the part of the bureaucracy they’ve periodically manufactured some debt for me.

    Then they’ll garnish my wages even deeper for a month or 2, then count it in the arrearages paid column in their yearly tally of how wonderful they are at getting deadbeats like me to pay up. Yeah, “deadbeats” like me who have paid more through their system than the judge has ordered, to the tune of about 3k over the last 10 years.

    I’ve got a short stack of papers telling me on various occasions that they’ll suspend my driver’s license and any professional licenses if I don’t pay up what they claim I owe.

  28. additional wrinkle on child support, from my brother’s terrible experience:

    In Washington State, if you fall behind on any of your payments (like disputing whether their fair…) the agency charges you interest on the ‘debt’. When you bring your account back up to date that money does not go to your account, i.e. your kids, but goes to the agency. So, the tax-supported agency creates a ‘debt’ which it then charges interest on for its own, and only owen, benefit.

    Absolutely hideous. Thank god I haven’t fathered any offspring.

  29. Thank god I haven’t fathered any offspring.

    Tindigging Mom: That’s him! J.A. Lurker! He’s the father of my 6 babies!

    The State (Acting on Behalf of The Children): Right! Pay-up, Mr. Lurker.

    J.A. Lurker: But I don’t know this woman! I don’t have any kids! I’ll take a paternity test to prove it!

    The State (Now Acting on Behalf of Its Powers of Coercion): Maybe you didn’t hear us. WE SAID PAY UP! Do we have to send Vinnie and Rocco over to your place and rearrange your kneecaps? Oh, but don’t be too quick about paying your “debt”. Guido, our “Payment Enforcement Officer” (ha, we crack ourselves up with those titles) loves it when you need to pay late fees, penalties, and interest. Mow, Mr. Lurker, your first check is due at the end of the month, but go ahead and wait until July or August to pay.

  30. Eh, it’s not only the US. A new proposal in Germany would make it a criminal offense for a purported father to get a DNA test without a court order.

    I’m constantly shocked by how lax men are about birth control.

  31. “I’m constantly shocked by how lax men are about birth control.”

    That’s another issue. The issue here is how lax the state is about trampling suspected fathers basic civil rights (i.e. right to due process; right to be free of specious claims and then have to pay for the state’s own ineptitude/the mother’s sadism). The reality is that all men are treated as scum until proven unscum, but by then they’re often broke.

  32. Yes Les Miserables, you are indeed my worst nightmare.

  33. “That’s another issue.”

    no, it’s the same issue. or part of it. you can think with your dick, so long as it’s wearing a hat and has a tiny bit of peculiarity as to where it’s going.

  34. dhex – So would you argue that if a man is particularly (or peculiarly, TRULY a whole different issue) only having sex with your wife, the two of you agree to have a child and then she runs off with the mailman it’s okay for the state to assume that it’s your child and stick you with child support payments until you can prove it’s actually the mailman’s kid?

    The other side of the issue is how child support is determined. No one has a definitive answer of what it should reasonably cost to raise a child, so it’s tied to a direct percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income. (Usually the noncustodial parent is the father, and usually it’s 20% for one child, more for multiple children plus additional money for child care expenses, health and dental insurance.)

    After the gov’t gets its cut and the former spouse gets his/her cut “for the child,” the noncustodial parent usually ends up living on a about 20-25% of their gross income. Ever wonder why so many of these folks who genuinely want to support their children end up as “deadbeats?”

    Certainly it can’t have anything to do with the financial plundering of the non-custodial parent in the name of their children…

  35. Woops – “if a man is particularly” should read “if you’re a man who is particularly”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.