Monday, November 23, 2009

DNA Paternity Doesn't Need to Define All the Financial Responsibilty

The New York Times Magazine has a gripping story about fathers who discover they are not biologically related to their children, want to stay connected with them socially, but also think the biological father should foot some of the bill. The core story centers on a man who divorced his wife when he discovered that their daughter was really the child of affair she had with another guy. Since the man had been acting as her father for years and still loved her and wanted to be connected with her, he paid full child support. However, when his ex-wife married the man who was actually the biological father of the child, the court concluded that this new man - legal step-father, actual bio-father - had no financial responsibility for the little girl, though she lived in his house. The man she still called "daddy" was left subsidizing the household of the man who had displaced him.

I don't think there is any good solution to a complex disaster like this. I do think the courts should divide up the money in some proportional way. This division would not need to be based wholly on biological paternity or wholly on social relationship. Money, unlike any other good, has the great advantage of being something you can divide up minutely. Unlike people's affections, and their time, money doesn't care how it is divided.


Black Sea said...

There is a guy in Georgia who found himself in jail because he had failed to pay support for a child not his, as determined by a DNA test. At the time of his arrest, he was unemployed and living in a car.

This type of ruling is insane, or at least, so unjust as to approximate insanity. So far as I'm concerned, if you are not the biological father and have not legally adopted the child, your financial obligations end the moment your non-paternity has been established. The biological father has been free-riding off the "social father" or whatever, for however many years the kid has been alive. He should therefore be liable for finacial restitution to the social father.

If the non-biological father wants to send some money the kid's way out of affection, duty, or whatever, that's his choice, and an admirable one it would be, but I can't see any reason to make it a legal obligation. It is not the responsibility of the legal system to compell us to behave in an extraordinarily compassionate manner.

Peter said...

It is an up side down country we find ourselves in today. A Fort Hood terrorist is labeled with PTSD. Our president bows and scrapes to world leaders. Pretend torture (water boarding) is called torture. An American general says diversity is more important that the murdered and wounded at Fort Hood. 911 terrorists are treated as American citizens in a New York City trial. (Thank you Eric Holder.) Why would we be surprised when non fathers are made responsible for their non children?