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Paternity fraud and past-due support: A parent trap

Paternity fraud happens when a mother intentionally names the wrong man as the father of her child.

With all the advantages of modern technology, it seems like anyone caught in the "parent trap" of paternity fraud should have an easy solution: a DNA test. They're quick, cheap, and conclusive.

However, many times the fraud has already gone on for years before the man begins to suspect that he's not the child's father -- all the while paying child support or having it accrue as debt if he's been unable to pay. In some cases, especially those where the father was named on an application for welfare benefits but never told directly that he was the alleged father, a man may not find out that he's thousands of dollars behind on paternity debt until he's pulled over for a routine traffic violation and arrested for being a "deadbeat dad."

Worse, a federal law known as the Bradley Amendment prohibits judges from retroactively altering the child support payments a victim of paternity fraud was ordered to pay. That means that even if you can conclusively prove that you aren't the child's father through DNA testing, any support payments that you've already paid are gone for good.

Any debt that you still have hanging over your head from past-due child support will still remain -- along with the potential consequences that go along with it, like the loss of your driver's license or even incarceration.

At least one judge, however, has managed to come up with a creative solution to the problem for a man who was caught in one of these parent traps. When an alleged father proved through DNA that he wasn't the father of a child born 13 years prior, he asked to be relieved of the future support obligation and $23,000 in past due support.

While the judge was able to end the man's future obligations, the Bradley Amendment prevented him from wiping out the past-due accrued debt -- so he adjusted it to a payment of $1 per month. As long as the man stays current on his monthly $1 payment, he won't be in default and face any other penalties.

Paternity fraud is serious business that can have devastating financial and psychological consequences for those victimized by it. Anyone who suspects they may be the victim of paternity fraud should consider contacting an attorney for advice.

Source: congressionalresearch.com, "The Bradley Amendment: Prohibition Against Retroactive Modifications Of Child Support Arrearages," accessed Jan. 05, 2017

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