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Subject: ACFC: Some dads wronged by paternity laws, critics say

Date: 07 August 2001 00:40


Thanks to Jim and Maria McGee for sending us the following.



This article appeared in The Sunday Oklahoman on 8/5/01.

This issue is of a lot of interest to many these days with

legislation pending in several states.

Thank you for all your information that you provide.

Jim and Maria McGee

Citizens Against Paternity Fraud (CAPF)

Oklahoma Chapter


The Oklahoman

Some dads wronged by paternity laws, critics say


By Penny Owen

Staff Writer

First come the stories.

Like the one from Fairview, where a man learned he had a son eight years

after the boy was born. After $15,000 in legal bills and another $20,000

paid in a child support settlement, the father and his current wife say

they have yet to meet the boy, now 22.

Or the case in Anadarko, where an Army retiree learned that he wasn't the

father of the girl he had raised for 10 years. The news didn't come until

the girl turned 17. But that didn't exempt him from owing $23,000 in back

child support.

Nor has child support been stopped for a man in Atlanta, who said he

learned he wasn't the father of the daughter he had raised. Fed up with

the system and realizing he wasn't alone, Carnell Smith started a

Web-based support group, Citizens for Paternity Fraud


The site is geared for fathers who feel wronged when it comes to support

for a child they either thought was theirs and learned otherwise or who

never knew the child existed.

Interestingly, some of the biggest advocates of changing child support

laws are the current wives of the fathers they say are victimized. These

women say their pocketbooks, livelihood and own children suffer because of

unfair or antiquated laws that favor mothers who, as one put it, connive

to "change fathers in midstream," depending on who can pay.

In Oklahoma, a bill pending in the House of Representatives proposes new,

more father-friendly legislation that would help both men who learn they

are fathers years after the fact and those who learn they are not.

House Bill 1077 is authored by state Rep. Lloyd Fields, D-McAlester, who

personally was ordered in 1997 to pay $26,000 in back child support after

a messy and drawn-out battle involving a daughter and divorce.

The bill, in essence, would allow any man to challenge paying child

support if a paternity test proved he wasn't the biological father. As the

law stands now, a husband who has served as father to a child in a

marriage for two or more years is liable for child support, even if the

parents divorce and a paternity test proves he isn't the father.

That part was inspired by state Rep. Jim Glover, D-Elgin, who said he was

contacted by a man in his district who was being forced to pay child

support on two children, even though paternity tests proved he wasn't the


The reason he remained obligated, Glover said, was because he was married

to the mother and put his name on the birth certificates. Unless the law

changes, he will pay child support until the children turn 18, Glover

said. The mother is now living with the biological father.

"If you're not the father, why should you pay child support? There's just

nothing fair about it," said Glover, who added that HB 1077 passed in the

House twice, but was killed in Senate committee.

The bill also would not force a man to pay back child support for a child

he never knew existed. As it is now, said Ray Weaver, the director of

child support enforcement for the state Department of Human Services,

anyone found to be the father of a child, even if he didn't know it, can

be liable for child support up to five years before the discovery.

The whole issue of child support, paternity and liability is a mess at

best, and each case has its differences and complications. One side,

loaded with women as well as men, complain of mothers who trick men into

fatherhood while knowing they aren't the fathers. The other side argues

that families come first and scientific findings shouldn't destroy a child

's understanding of who its parents are.

Paternity testing is now highly accurate - and 28 percent of the men

tested for fatherhood in 1999 and 2000 were proven not to be the father,

according to the American Association of Blood Banks and Oklahoma's human

services department.

Some, like Norvell Gattison, didn't learn until years after the fact - 17,

to be exact.

Gattison's wife said her husband married the mother of a 2-year-old girl

because he was told he was the father. They divorced when the girl turned

12, and the relationship with his ex-wife deteriorated further. In the

end, Gattison owed $23,000 in back child support, which is being garnished

from his Army retirement check.

More painful, however, was learning the truth.

Gattison's wife, Marilyn, said the mother blurted out the truth when the

daughter was 17, prompting Gattison to take a paternity test. Both father

and daughter were there when the letter arrived with the results.

"I opened the letter and looked at him and said 'You're not the father,

'" Marilyn Gattison said. "And they both started crying. It really hurt

both of them."

The father-daughter relationship has since been damaged because of

subsequent fights over child support between Gattison and his ex-wife.

At least Gattison had some relationship with his daughter - unlike the

husband of Pat Conrady of Fairview, who learned he had a son after an old

girlfriend's husband was arrested for child molestation and thrown in


Conrady said when the mother applied for social assistance, she named her

husband as the father. He then got a bill for back child support. When he

said he wanted to meet the son he never knew, Conrady said the mother

disappeared, only to reappear years later, again wanting back support.

They nearly went bankrupt fighting the case and finally gave in by

agreeing to a $20,000 settlement - which, with legal bills and all, ate up

their own childrens' college fund and put them in debt.

To say Conrady is bitter is an understatement, and she knows she's not


"They write him off with this other child as a deadbeat father and it's

not like that. He never had a chance to be a father," said Conrady, who

described her husband as a devoted husband and provider with the same job

for 22 years, who always supported the children he knew he had.

She says her husband willingly would have supported the new-found son as

well, had he been able to develop a relationship with him.

"They're destroying other kids and other marriages just to get money for

these women whose marriages didn't work out and who want to change fathers

in midstream," Pat Conrady said. "Our kids are all out of the house now,

and we should be at the point where we can travel and enjoy life a little

bit, and we can't because we have this debt to pay off."

On the other side of the argument are those who say the past is simply

catching up with men who knowingly took a risk, however long ago.

"That part, 'I didn't have any idea I was the father' bothers me a little

bit," said Weaver of DHS. "Everyone knows how children are conceived.

And if you don't remember conceiving a child, I don't think it's harmful to

society to have a genetic test to remind you that you did conceive a child."

Weaver also pointed out that recent legislation has tried to get absentee

fathers more involved in their children's lives by such things as

providing work retraining for those who can't afford child support.

Studies have shown that the more fathers are involved in their children's

lives, the more likely they are to pay support.

Some, however, say legislation is too little too late. Gattison, the Army

retiree, lost his commercial driver's license, private investigator

license and fishing license because he owes back child support. No doubt

laws have cracked down on so-called deadbeat parents.

More than just the fathers are affected, too.

Strapped for cash because her husband couldn't work, Marilyn Gattison said

she applied for food stamps - and was turned down because of the back

support owed.

"I said, 'You're telling me I have to tell my husband to leave the home in

order for me and my child to eat?'" Marilyn Gattison said. "I'm just

having a hard time. I don't know what law can make a man pay for a child

that's not his. And if DHS has all these resources, why can't they go

after the real father?

"The sad part about it was, when me and him got married, we decide to

adopt a child - and now we can barely afford it."


Sidebar: Paternity

In 2000, Oklahoma had:

47,226 recorded births.

66 percent were born to married couples; 34 percent to unmarried couples.

Of the unwed births, 60 percent of the fathers signed admissions to being

the parent.

Of the remaining 40 percent, 13 percent of those involved paternity

testing by DHS.

About 72 percent of the paternity tests proved the man to be the father.

Altogether, 700 of 2,100 men tested through DHS proved negative.

SOURCE: State Department of Human Services

On the Web

Citizens for Paternity Fraud:


All content copyrighted 2001 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.

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