Paternity Testing Grows in Popularity

Dr. Enrique Terrazas thought his second wife was crazy when she suggested he take a paternity test because she saw no resemblance between him and his 10-year-old daughter.

Terrazas relented and the test results revealed there was a zero percent chance he was the biological father of the girl.

"I was in shock," Terrazas said. "This is the kind of thing that happened on Jerry Springer, I couldn't believe it was happening to me."

Paternity tests, a favorite theme of daytime talk shows, have become more common as they become easier to administer and less expensive. The cost of the test is at least half of what it was 10 years ago, ranging from $175 to $500, and the popularity of home DNA tests is on the rise.

The consequences have enormous emotional, legal and financial consequences for the men, women and children involved. For Terrazas, it cost him his relationship with his daughter.

"It opened up so many cans of worms," he said. "Not only are you talking about infidelity, but it's a lie that my ex-wife carried forward for years and placed on the child. I had loved and trusted this person and this just shattered that."

According to the American Association of Blood Banks, 30 percent of 354,000 men who took paternity tests in 2003 were not the biological father of the tested child.

Carnell Smith was a victim of paternity fraud and founded 4TRUTH Identity's DNA Center and U.S. Citizens Against Paternity Fraud, which provide paternity tests for those who cannot afford them. Smith advocates for mandatory paternity tests on all children at birth, and at least one Texas lawmaker agrees with him.

Texas Democratic state Rep. Harold Dutton introduced a bill that would require that DNA testing be offered at all births. A couple could elect to not do the test, but would forgo the ability to challenge biological evidence in the future. The bill passed in the Texas House, but failed in the Senate.

"Now that DNA tests are relatively inexpensive and painless, it would be practical," "Good Morning America" legal analyst Lisa Bloom said of routine DNA testing at birth. "But the real legal issue is privacy. We can't assume that every father wants to know and how would those tests be used? For example, could they be released to law enforcement?"

Currently, 24 states have paternity fraud laws, but even if a man was proven not to be the biological father of a child, Bloom said he may still be required to pay child support.

"The law wants to protect the best interest of the child, keep fathers in the picture and, frankly, keep those child support payments coming because without them you and I pay in the form of welfare to single mothers," Bloom said. "But men have banded together and said 'look, this is wrong.' "

Because of disputes over child support payments as a result of the paternity test, Terrazas said he no longer sees his child regularly and their relationship "has been destroyed." His ex-wife's current husband is in the process of adopting the child, but Terrazas said he still has hope of a continuing relationship with the girl.

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