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Notes From a Single Mom: Who’s Your Daddy?

Paternity testing puts all doubts to rest

When comedienne Paula Poundstone was once asked if she had any children, she hilariously quipped, “No, I don’t . . . at least none that I know of, anyway.” I love that line. It’s very funny coming from a woman.

But it’s not so funny coming from a man.

Too often we hear stories of “deadbeat dads,” men who abandon their children, emotionally and financially, for whatever reason. But what about the good guys who get the shaft? The men who cherish being fathers, only to discover later that the children they thought were their offspring are biologically someone else’s?

It happens more often than you think. The American Association of Blood Banks reports that in over 30 percent of paternity cases sent in for testing, the wrong man is identified as the biological father.

Not to cast any judgments . . . but what’s going on here, ladies? Either you know who the father of your child is or . . . there’s something else going on here.

Sadly, it’s often about money, claims Carnell Smith. This Georgia engineer made paternity fraud a national issue and forced the courts to update paternity laws hearkening back to King Henry VIII when, through a simple DNA test, he discovered he’d been supporting a daughter for 10 years who wasn’t his, biologically. Says Smith: “Wrongly forcing a man to pay for children he did not father can wreck his life and prevent him from being able to provide for his own family.”

Financial gain aside, it’s simply not fair to men—or children—to not know with 100 percent certainty who to buy that Father’s Day card for. We all have a moral and legal right to know where we came from, who our blood relatives are, what our family medical history entails. With an accuracy index as high as 30 billion to one, DNA tests will settle the fatherhood question once and for all.

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How do you get a paternity test? First off, don’t pay for one. It’s expensive and not necessary, since the Child Support Services division in many states will do it for free. Steve Eldred, chief deputy director of the Orange County Department of Child Support Services in California and a nationally renowned expert in paternity issues, says his agency shed light on many cases last year. “. . . out of 145 paternity disestablishments, 37 of those weren’t the biological dad” and they were relieved of their child support obligations.

Understandably, some men are reluctant to take the test out of pure chivalry. “If a dad goes into court to question the paternity, the mother hears, ‘You think I’m a tramp.’ And a gentleman doesn’t say that,” says Eldred. “A lot of people don’t ask, when really they should. It’s one of the reasons we encourage both moms and dads to get testing.”

Have nagging doubts, yourself? Request the test. It’s free. Besides, I can’t think of a better way to start a new day than to know exactly who your own children are.

Lynn Armitage is a freelance writer and enrolled tribal member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. She shares her daddy with three sisters and one brother.