Jewish World Review August 15, 2002 / 7 Elul, 5762

Tresa McBee

Tresa McBee
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Hey, fellas: Beware the fairer sex ain't always fair | Guys, I'm going to let you in on something: The fairer sex isn't always fair.

Someone's gotta tell you, 'cause it appears not enough of you are aware that despite decades of clarion calls for all things equitable between the genders, we gals aren't always so fair-minded ourselves.

As a number of men have discovered, the women with whom they cavort don't always tell the truth regarding paternity. We may get the short end of the child-rearing stick if men decide to run once the test turns positive, but the fact remains that biology won't be denied. We get pregnant, and only we know (most of the time) who the father is.

And sometimes we lie. And sometimes the wrong man is pegged as father, forced to pay for a child not biologically his. Some women have figured out that declaring the most financially viable consort as sperm donor is the fast track to child support.

So men are banding together and lobbying lawmakers to require that courts accept DNA evidence when determining who owes child support.

In most states, once a man is declared father, he remains father and child-support provider. Doesn't matter if DNA says otherwise. Some men don't find out about their financial obligations until their pay is garnished or they receive a notice regarding thousands in back payments. Others don't receive notices of paternity in time to appear in court, while still others just don't show up.

But regardless of how support is assigned, if a man discovers he isn't the biological father, he can do little. Most courts insist he continue paying, although a few states have enacted legislation allowing men DNA recourse. Only Alaska requires unwed parents to establish paternity for child support.

Finding paternity horror stories isn't difficult. Men are forced to pay for children they didn't father to the financial detriment of children they did. Men pay for children they've never met or who are clearly of a different ethnicity. Men lose homes and jobs and families.

Diana Thompson, executive director of American Coalition for Fathers & Children, tells the Daily Breeze (Torrance, Calif.), that "father shopping" -- whereby mom chooses the most eligible dad from her list of possible papas -- is "rampant." In the same article, a California assemblyman, who introduced a state bill to help wrongly named fathers, suggests one reason for the rise in paternity fraud cases rests with new welfare regulations requiring single mothers to list who supplied junior's other DNA.

Previously, fathers weren't considered necessary information.

It's a mess, this one. We've taught men well that their presence and participation in their children's lives is so irrelevant that they bear no responsibility for siring them. Create kids and move on. Single mom will raise offspring alone, perhaps with family help if she's really lucky, and the state will contribute. Nevermind the attendant, often grave, risks to fatherless children.

Yes, we've taught well. We enter into relationships without benefit of legal, social and emotional ties that bind fathers to children. Marriage as optimal environment for children represents the restrictive and oh-so passť. If women don't care when they get pregnant while single, why should men?

But now it's coming back. Women have figured out how to manipulate within a system that carries no repercussions for falsely declaring paternity. Bio-dad, wherever he is, gets to skirt responsibility, too. All while non-bio-dad foots the bill.

Meanwhile, back in the land of cause-and-effect that bio-parents have managed to avoid, children suffer once more for adults' selfishness, disregard and stupidity.

Because somewhere along the road of social upheaval -- some good, a lot bad -- we dropped the concept of consequences off at the first exit. Paternity fraud encompasses multiples issues, the least of which is the one anybody wants to talk about -- that our behavior is producing seriously undesirable results, namely children whose existence boils down to the outcome of 1-800-DADDY-DNA. Both genders bear that burden.

Then they pass it on to their kids, and, in turn, this condition we call society.

What a legacy.

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JWR contributor Tresa McBee is a columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Times. Comment by clicking here.

08/08/02: Why women will remain the at-risk gender
08/01/02: Girl: The new four-letter word?

© 2002, Northwest Arkansas Times