The gray area of paternity testing

Many fathers in Florida have wondered at some point if they are the father of their children. Faced with pervasive doubts, many may deny the child all together and refuse to offer support of any kind. This can have devastating effects on not just the woman, but far more importantly, the child. These children may grow up fatherless as a result of the disconnect. If they had a relationship with their fathers prior to this, it may leave them with abandonment issues for some time to come.

The Atlantic points out that for years, people relied on social relationships to determine fatherhood. Fathers often became designated as such in a courtroom because they claimed fatherhood, especially in unmarried households. This ultimately became a problem when the man claimed the opposite. For married couples, a husband was almost always designated as the father of his wife’s children, even if her fidelity was in question.

Over time, society developed new ways to biologically infer whether or not a man could possibly be a child’s father. To do this, they relied on blood groups. However, the test did not always allow a man to deny the child. For example, in one famous 1940s case, Charlie Chaplain denied fathering a child with a woman and blood tests proved he could not be the biological father. However, the jury decided to treat him as the father because of his social relationship with the mother of the child. Neighbors reportedly witnessed him enter the woman’s home at night and leave the following morning.

By the 1980s, scientists developed a more accurate way to test the biological relationships between two people. These results offered 99.99% accuracy and remain the standard even today. While this information is often important and can save lives, it may also drive families apart, causing children to suffer for a decision one or even both parents were party to.

Even so, many people would rather know the truth. This sometimes includes the children themselves. USA Today points out that several people may legally request a paternity test. These include the child’s guardian, the alleged father and a government social worker, among others.

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Beverly L . Brennan A PARTNER AT MCLAUGHLIN & STERN, LLP - NAPLES, FLORIDA ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

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