Paternity Fraud: Tennessee Considers Letting Duped Men Off The Hook

Paternity fraud is once again in the news, as the state of Tennessee is on the brink of becoming a trend-setter state with proposed legislation that would allow for the disestablishment of parentage. Paternity fraud is the popular name for the situation where a man is “duped” into fatherhood for a child that is not biologically related. The big issue with paternity fraud is that a man is forced to pay child support for these children even after DNA evidence proves that he is not the biological father. The majority of states rely on an English common law doctrine that creates a presumption of fatherhood when a child is born during a marriage or 300 days after divorce. The current purpose of this doctrine is to prevent the state welfare system from paying to support the child.

While the mother-child relationship is generally established at birth; the father-child relationship is harder to establish. When the common law doctrine of paternity was first established over 500 years ago, there was no scientific test that could prove paternity. With the advent of DNA testing, the old presumption has become antiquated. The majority of states have failed to reevaluate their paternity laws and have kept the old presumption in place.

Tennessee is currently considering a law that would allow for the disestablishment of parentage. The proposed bill would amend the current law and allow a man to escape child support obligations if he can show through DNA evidence that he is not the biological father. The new paternity law would not allow reimbursement for child support that has already been paid and would only apply to future child support payments. In addition, the law would not allow disestablishment of parentage in three situations. These are:

1. If the father legally had adopted the child. 2. If the father has entered into a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. 3. If at the time a child support order was granted by a court, the man had actual knowledge that he was not the father.

If the paternity fraud bill becomes law, Tennessee would be one of a handful of states that allows a man to stop paying child support when he can prove he is not the biological father. Attempts to change the presumption of paternity have met with strong resistance from groups in many states. The majority of the arguments against changing the law address that if the duped dad is let off the hook for child support, it is the child that becomes the victim. Opponents to the new law submit that the child’s best interest should be the only concern.

Supporters of the paternity fraud bill argue that fraud should never be rewarded. They point out that these cases often arise because the woman has concealed a sexual relationship from her husband. They submit that the current law excuses the woman’s conduct and creates a new victim.

Scott Justice is an attorney practicing family law in Tennessee. He is the author of Tennessee Divorce and Family Law located at


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5 Responses

  1. One of the rules in Tennessee regarding the duped dads number 3. If the fathers did sign the birth certificate they still should be able to be made not to pay child support for any child thats not his through a dna test. Women this day and time are so deceitful and men from a good family backgroung will step in and do the right thing. But if they are deveived then they should not be made to pay. Women of today are becoming mothers at a young age and they are telling the man who they want to be the dad that the child is theirs when it is not. This need to stop and become a crime by punishment. I bet you this will stop or decrease drasticly.

  2. I honestly think no matter who you are or what your marital status is. All females need to get a paternity test done as soon as the child is born. It is wrong that alot of women try to trap men or force men to take care of a child that is not theirs. Some women are offended just by mentioning a paternity test. Well one question for those women… Why? I mean if you have no doubt that your boyfriend or husband is the father of your child then why would you care if there was a DNA test done? It shouldn’t matter. Plus that will elimate paternity fraud and also it will make a relationship stronger. My boyfriend never doubted that my son was his, but I not him but I insisted on a DNA test. Not because I cheated but for the simple fact that now he knows there is no chance it could ever be anyone elses child. That our son is really his and no one can ever doubt it. I just think it should be a requirement. It will stop all of the lying and deceit. But that is just my opinion.

  3. I completely agree. No woman should have the power to trap a man. If a man is proven by DNA not to be the father and if he chooses, to have the paternity lifted. My fiance and I spent 25 thousand dollars in lawyer and court costs, and lost. The DNA was proven to the court that neither child was his. She admitted she lied to him but Wyoming is still forcing him to be the father even though there is no relationship with the kids, its all about the 900 a month she gets… ohh and the courts decided his biological child was worth 66 dollars a month and hers are 900. So NO man should be forced to be a father.

  4. The state of Tennessee, as well as with many other states are violating our constitutional amendments 13 and 14 (Slavery/involuntary Servitude and Equal Rights) with their feel good laws. If it is fraud committed by a woman and it has to do with a child then many states determine to look the other way and make law as acceptable and reward a person that commits fraud, deception, lies, etc.

  5. When I originally commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments
    are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the exact same comment.
    Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service?
    Many thanks!

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