One of the most basic rules in life is that any action, any discovery, will have far more consequences than can be imagined. And of late, yet another one of these is the amazing synergy between advanced genetic research and the welfare society.
The explosion of illegitamacy has a great deal to do with the welfare state. Under current policies, it’s simply more profitable for a woman to have children without a father present. It’s a perverse incentive, that has led to the near-destruction of the family unit among the poorer classes.
But one of the elements that helped support that was the ability of a woman to simply deny knowing who had fathered her child. (I still recall the days when a woman — or a man, for that matter — who had multiple sex partners within a week or two was something that was considered a tremendous mark of shame, but I digress and date myself.) But eventually it simply got to the point where hospital officials would simply put down “father unknown” on birth certificates without a second thought.
Likewise, in many other cases, a man who found himself named as a baby’s father would simply accept it. He might shoulder his responsibilities and do what he could for the child, or might try to evade them, but the cases of a man out-and-out denying paternity were rare.
Now comes the wonders of science. With DNA testing that proves or disproves paternity with almost absolute certainty, the true father of a child can be decided in very short order. And that has sent earthquakes through the legal community.
Many of those men who accepted a woman’s word and paid child support for years have had niggling suspicions that they were not truly the child’s father, and in quite a few cases have gone to labs to confirm or deny those suspicions. And that leaves us to the obvious question: suppose a man has been paying court-mandated child support for years, then finds out another man is the father. What should be done?
It’s a hell of a tough question. The justice side of me says he ought to be released from further payments, and the mother should repay him for the child support she had received. The law-and-order side of me wants the woman charged with fraud. The compassionate side of me worries how this will affect the child, as they suddenly lose the man they thought of as their father and their support.
The courts have, largely, wimped out. They have tended to rule that the father has a certain window of time to contest paternity; after that, regardless of new evidence, he’s on the hook for supporting this kid until, depending on circumstances, they reach the age of 23. And they’ve openly stated, in some cases, that SOMEONE has to pay for the child’s care, so it might as well be the guy who’s been doing it all along.
The Boston Herald took a look at this issue recently, with some rather compelling anecdotes.
For me, this is strictly an academic issue. I have no kids, and I’ve made sure I won’t. But it’s a growing problem, and we need to figure out just what we’re going to do about it — and soon.