john-edwardsFormer U.S. Senator John Edwards’ admission of paternity regarding a child not conceived by his wife brings to mind Ruth Padawer’s New York Times Magazine article, Who Knew I was NOT the Father, published a few months back. Padawer described the dilemma of Mike L. whose DNA proved he was not the biological father of a girl that he had raised from birth. Mike was extremely conflicted because he still loved his daughter deeply. However, upon learning that his former wife was about to marry the alleged biological father of their child, he asked the courts to relinquish his child support payments. Surprisingly, they refused. Mike continues to pay child support to his former wife and his daughter’s biological dad and he is not happy.

DNA tests have proven that 40% of children are born outside of marriage and the number of paternity tests has increased by 60% in the past decade. With a swab from the cheek, life can change dramatically. Most states require an unmarried couple to complete an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) before the baby’s birth certificate is signed. However, there is a growing movement to have mandatory paternity tests done, even for married couples.

Life is indeed, messy. Most state-appointed judges will NOT let non-biological fathers to stop paying child support in the “best interest of the child.” According to the courts, if a man acknowledges paternity and a bond has been established with the child, it would be disruptive for that relationship to disappear. It is now recommended that a presumed father, biological mother or biological father challenge paternity before the child turns 2. This would allow for any discrepancies to be resolved before deep parental bonds have formed. However, there are men who dispute this proposal stating a man may not discover he is not the child’s biological father until years later.

As an obstetrician, I have witnessed the heart break on both sides of the fence. Sex is not a benign act. It can and DOES bring forth creation. It is therefore prudent that everyone act responsibly and HONESTLY. Children shouldn’t suffer because of misguided adults.