I’ll Be Your Father If the DNA Tests Out–What Should We Say To That?

In some curious coincidence two recent posts have featured the similar scenarios.    And so, of course, I’ve been thinking.

There’s that Maryland case where one man—William Corbett–was willing to acknowledge a child and be the child’s father–as long as the DNA tests came out that way.  At the same time another man–Thomas Mulligan–was happy to accept the role as father even though it was nearly certain that he was genetically unrelated to the child.

There’s a somewhat similar set of facts in the article about pre-natal paternity testing.   Courtney Herndon was pregnant and there were two different men who might have been responsible for the pregnancy–her ex-boyfriend and a friend she’d had some sort of fling with.  The friend wanted to know if he was the genetic father and indeed, it turned out he was.   But Herndon ended up marrying her ex-boyfriend and he’s the one actually raising the child (while the genetic father pays child support.)

So here’s what I’ve been thinking about–suppose you have two potential candidates for legal father of a child.     One man says “I will be the father of the child (by which he means I will take on the myriad of responsibilities) if and only if the DNA shows that I am genetically related to that child.”   The other man says “I’ll be the father of the child (same meaning) no matter what the DNA shows.  I don’t care.”     Should we prefer one or the other of these men?   Do we need to do the DNA test?

I know it will make many of you quite unhappy, but I’m strongly inclined to go with the second man–the one who will be there no matter what.  He’s offering an unconditional undertaking.   He’s sufficiently invested in the relationship with the mother and in the project of raising the child so that the detail of DNA isn’t all that important any more.

By contrast, the other man’s offer is conditional–he’s not that committed to the project, he’s not that committed to the relationship with the mother.  He’s quite willing to walk, depending on the outcome of the DNA test.    It’s possible that if the DNA test matches up with him he’ll be all in, but we don’t know that.   And suppose–just suppose–that a year later it turns out the DNA test was done improperly and he’s not really genetically related?   Does he walk then?  There’s reason to think he might.   But this possiblity suggests to me he’s not really in it to be a father–in the social/pscyhological sense of the word.

You all know I’m not a huge fan of DNA and there’s something here that ties into why.   Either the DNA is there or it is not.  And so either you’re a father or not.  There’s no need to work at it–and indeed, working at it cannot change the outcome.  It makes parentage too simple, too easy.  It’s not about commitment and dedication–it’s just about genetics.

I have only just started to think about this and I don’t have it properly formulated yet–but I wanted to get a start.   I need to stop and head for the airport soon–but on a long flight there’s lots of time to think.


66 responses to “I’ll Be Your Father If the DNA Tests Out–What Should We Say To That?

  1. wrong Julie. the “fling” accepted the child no matter what, FOR WHO HE IS. he had to find out who he was in order to do that.
    On the other hand the boyfriend-husband-to-be accepted the child because he was interested in having a relationship with the mother.

    I also see no reason that you seem to apply demerits to a man simply because he is unwilling to commit to a totally unrelated child. This child is as unrelated as if it was any abandoned child in an orphanage, the only difference being that that this one may also have it’s real father available.

    We do not consider men to be poorer fathers because they do not swoop in to claim unrelated, lost, abandoned children wandering down the street. The fact that they had sex with the mother once upon a time really has no relevance. If he is not the father, what difference does it make if it was 9 months ago or 9 years ago?

    Let’s play what if, my favorite game.
    What if a man who had sex with herndon 9 years ago happened to hear about this somehow, showed up in the hospital and agreed to accept paternity. Most of us would consider him being ridiculous.

    • I’m confused by your first statement. If the DNA test had shown that the child was not related to the fling do you think the fling would have accepted legal responsiblity for the child? The way I read the story, this was not the case. If the fling were willing to accept the child no matter what, why insist on the DNA test first?

      I’m tempted to pause here because it seems to me sort of foundational. If we are reading the basic facts differently, then the whole rest will be different, too. But at the risk of cluttering things, I’ll go on a bit, because you’ve raised interesting points.

      I know I haven’t been terribly clear about why I’d give demerits to a man who would only parent a child genetically related to him. I don’t feel terribly clear about it in my own mind. I suppose it’s that I think when it comes to child-rearing one should either be committed to the project or not. Conditional commitments to child rearing trouble me. So, for instance, we’d agree that if he said “I’ll be the father if he looks like me” that would be less than desireable?

      I’m not sure I get your “what if.” If a man appears when the child is nine he could perhaps take on a parental role with the child but it surely won’t be easy to do that. Should I be imagining that there is a single mother and she’s gotten involved with him? I think it is probably hard if that man has been unknown to the child up till then–no matter whether there is DNA or not. You miss an awful lot of a child’s life in the first nine-years.

      But whatever I think about that it has nothing to do with DNA or with who slept with whom when, so i feel like I’m missing some point of your question?

      • “I suppose it’s that I think when it comes to child-rearing one should either be committed to the project or not.”
        See our discussion below on the difference between child-rearing and parenthood. Child-rearing is a project. Parenthood is not. It’s a relationship, an identity.
        Ideally the two should go together.

        And being a stickler for small stuff, I will also suggest an alternate title to your post.
        You wrote: “I’LL BE your father if the DNA test…”
        Try on for size “I AM your father if the DNA test….”
        Does it feel any different?

        • I’ll find the point about child-rearing/parenthood below and respond to that there. This seems key to me.

          About your alternate title. It’s actually a major change in meaning–it feels quite different. And perhaps it exposes something important.

          I could have written–perhaps should have written–
          “I am willing to be your legal father if the DNA test …..”

          And I think you could write “I am your genetic father if the DNA test….”

          So is the issue that I’m talking not about genetic parenthood, but legal parenthood? Have we puzzled each other because we are talking about two different sorts of parenthood?

      • “I suppose it’s that I think when it comes to child-rearing one should either be committed to the project or not. Conditional commitments to child rearing trouble me.”

        It is completely illogical to assume that because he is not committed to rearing an unrelated child, he would not be committed to raising his OWN child, as understood and defined by most of society.

        You are making a leap of gigantic proportions!

        • It’s quite true that I haven’t offered the rational that fills in the gap you’ve identified here. I meant to be clear that all I have (for now) is this somewhat unexamined reaction. I do prefer the person with the unconditional commitment–I haven’t been able to explain why. That doesn’t mean (to me anyway) that it is completely illogical. But it does mean there’s a hole.

          I suppose one thing that worries me is what will happen if it turns out, some years from now, that the DNA test wasn’t done properly. Then what? This guy is going to walk away? Or maybe there are some other conditions he’s planning to impose on his commitment to the child–but we haven’t heard them yet. Suppose the kid turns out to have some serious defect that is inherited from the mother?

          I know I still haven’t answered your question or filled the hole. I just am not able to yet. And maybe I never will be and maybe this means I am going to have to back track and reconsider my view. But it seems to me the DNA test conditioned approach makes children a bit more like property–the DNA tells you it is “your” child. There’s something there I do not like.

          • No no no DNA testing tells you who is responsible for creating the child in question and that tells you who should be responsible for the child’s care unless its proven the child is in danger in that parents care or unless that parent does not want to raise the child – in both those case then an outside person gets to take over the parent’s rearing obligations.

            The property approach is the one you favor because you favor the idea that children are marital property and where there is no marriage or relationship then the child is only supported by the woman who gave birth. By the way, you further favor the property approach by saying the woman who gives birth is the mother because basically possession is 9/10 of the law the child is her property if it came out of her. It ignores the fact that she may not be the origin of the child it may be someone else who reproduced that is really responsible for the existence of the child and the woman who gave birth merely developed the child that another woman created. One woman’s body creates the child is responsible for existence the other woman’s body develops the existing embryo for her because her body is not doing that job – this is no different than raising the offspring of a woman who is not raising her offspring with her body. The body of the first woman should be gestating and raising and because she is not doing that the other woman has an opportunity to. Its a property based approach to parenthood rather than a responsiblity based one. Precisely my problem with intentioned parenthood which is to say commissioned which is to say purchased which is to say human children are property.

  2. the point of that last thing is to show that we all acknowledge there is a diffrence between a genetically related man or not!

    • Ah–should have read that. Sorry. But I dno’t see how they hypo makes this point. And I actually don’t acknowledge that there is a difference between the genetically related man and the not-genetically related man. My thoughts about the guy who shows up when the child is nine would be essentially the same either way.

      I guess I’d agree that the child might have more reason to be interested in the genetically related man, as many have commented about how kids want to know something about this. But that’s not (in my view) the stuff of parentage.

      • I didn’t mean when the child is nine.
        I meant when the child is born.
        when the child is just born, a man who had sex with the child’s mother nine months ago, if he is not the one who impregnated her, is no more connected to that child than a man who had sex with her ages and ages ago.
        you wouldn’t expect an old flame from years and years ago to suddenly offer to be parent to this woman’s newborn child. you’d probably consider it very wierd behavior. well there is no difference between him and the nine months ago man except the timing of intercourse.
        unless of course, the nine month guy is the actual impregnator and thus genetically related.
        is their any other reason that you would treat them differently?

        • Ah–sorry–misunderstood.

          Okay, so if a woman gives birth and she is on her own and man comes along and forges a relationship with her and the child and wants to take on the responsiblity of being a parent and if the woman agrees with all this, then I really don’t care if he is an old flame or a new flame or a friend or whatever. I agree that if the guy just shows up on the doorstep and has no relationship with anyone, it would be odd indeed. And I don’t mean to suggest that he should be able to say “Hi–here I am, I’d like to do this” and get right on with it. Intention isn’t what I care about–because there can be such gaps between intention and action. I care about action. If he shows up and steps in and plays the role–then I’m impressed. And I don’t care whether or when he and the woman ever engaged in intercourse.

          But I feel like I still might be missing your point–in which case I’m sorry yet again. The key for me is whether the person is willing to undertake the commitments/forge the relationships and then does so. The guy who says “I’m willing under this condition…..” is not, to my mind, in the same league as the man who says “I’m willing” without reservation and then just gets on with it.

          • Here is the thing Julie what if a person shows up says hi I want to do this and is committed to raising the child genetic or not and the genetic mother does not wish that person to do so? What if the child would benefit from that additional attention and financial support? What if the only thing stopping the child from gaining is the mother’s general dislike for the other person? She’s standing in the way of the child benefiting because she can’t play nice and share.

  3. julie it seems to me thats what most important to you is the relationship with the child’s mother. that’s a far cry from unconditional acceptance. A man who commits based on the child’s DNA is indeed showing unconditional acceptance.

    • The man who commits based on DNA is not showing unconditional acceptance–because the acceptance is conditioned on the DNA. If the DNA doesn’t prove out, he walks away, right? That’s not what I call unconditional acceptance.

      I see what you mean about the other man, though, and I think it is important to distinguish between making a commitment to the child (and the joint project of raising the child) and a commitment to the relationship with the mother. I failed to do this and you’re right to raise it. I wonder, though, if there are many men who would accept unconditional legal responsiblity for the child if all they really wanted was a relationship with the mother. Remember that legal parentage brings with it some fairly serious long term obligations.

      Still, we’d need to make that assessment.

      • “If the DNA doesn’t prove out, he walks away, right? ” No, Julie, he doesn’t walk away because he was never in the picture in the first place.

        Say the police call me one day and say “there’s been an accident and the parents are dead and only the child survived, we’ve recovered some ID that this is your next of kin.” I show up at the and lo and behold its a mistaken ID and no relative of mine at all.

        Would you describe me as uncommitted, conditionally accepting, and thus a poor guardian or relative? Would you describe me as walking away? No because I wasn’t supposed to have been involved in the first place!

        Same thing!

        • “I wonder, though, if there are many men who would accept unconditional legal responsiblity for the child if all they really wanted was a relationship with the mother.”

          Why not? Happens all the time.
          They’re living as a family anyway and at the time they don’t imagine they will ever split.

          • Like I always say, beware of dating a man who’s TOO interested in your kid.

            • I think I look at things the opposite than you. In my world, Committing to caring for someone else’s kid because you love the parent is noble and healthy. Most likely you’ll eventually end up loving the kid too for themselves….
              Committing to caring for someone else’s kid for its own sake… That’s not so cool, it’s a bit freaky in my book.

              • I’m not sure we’re so far apart here and perhaps I just haven’t stated this well. If you think about the Maryland case–where you can see this scenario played out–it’s clear that the husband has a relationship with the wife. And he’s willing to take on responsiblity for that child, too. I’m thinking of cases like that, mostly. I agree that if a man came along not knowing the woman at all and only interested in the child it would be weird. But his interest in a relationship of the woman doesn’t lead him to legal parenthood for the child–that, it seems to me–ought to come from some connection to the child as well.

                • “I agree that if a man came along not knowing the woman at all and only interested in the child it would be weird. ”

                  In your view, why is it any less wierd if he had a brief uncommitted relationship with her which ended months ago?

            • Hell yes

          • I’m not at all sure it does happen that frequently. Do we really know? The only cases I can think of (and I mean speaking purely anecdotally) are ones where the man does have a relationship with the child. I cannot think of an instance where a man assumed the legal obligations of parenthood for a child where he really didn’t have a relationship with the child–only the mother. I do not cases where that is a description of the relationships, but the man in those instances hasn’t taken on the legal obligations of parenthood.

            • “I cannot think of an instance where a man assumed the legal obligations of parenthood for a child where he really didn’t have a relationship with the child–only the mother. ”

              Really? How about every donor offspring child whose mother’s spouse’s name appears as father on his or her birth certificate. He had no relationship with the child but was willing to take on the responsibility for the child based exclusively on his relationship with the mother AND its reinforced by that wretched UPA clause that says married men who consent to their wives insemination with donor sperm get to be the fathers of those children that they have no relationship with at birth.

        • Okay–he was in the picture enough to make the conditional offer, right? That’s the hypo. Maybe that’s not very far in but he’s at least on the edge and he’s fully prepared to move totally out of the frame if the outcome of the DNA test doesn’t suit. that’s what I meant.

          About the accident hypo—if two people show up at the scene and one says “I will take care of this child” and the other says ‘I will take care of this child if and only if we do a DNA test and it proves to be a genetically related child” then I’d rather have the first person take on the task. I’m not saying either would and it’s not my sole qualification–I’m not suggesting we just hand the child over. But as between the two people I’d prefer the one willing to make an unconditional commitment. I think I’m just being consistent and I can tell that we are really puzzling each other here.

          To be clear, I’m not sure why I prefer the person with the unconditional commitment. I haven’t offered (and cannot formulate) a good articulation. But I do have a gut instinct level preference for the unconditional offerrer.

          • “he was in the picture enough to make the conditional offer, right? ”

            No he wasn’t. Say there’s another woman named Ki Sarita in town who is the real aunt of the orphaned child, not me.
            Before clarifying everyone’s ID, there is a possibility that I could be the guardian. After the information is clarified it is discovered that I am no relation to this child.

            Am in in the picture?

            • I’m analogizing clarifying the ID, to the DNA testing.

            • Ki define real. What matters here is your committment to the project of raising the child. Thats what makes you areal aunt. Why give weight to DNA test results.

          • gut level instinct- This is what I mean by defending your unexplained axiom to the point of illogic.
            So he may reject the child if it turns out to be disabled? That could be said about many fathers, and even about some mothers too (although apparently rarer). That’s irrelevant to the question at hand.
            So he may reject the child if it turns out that the DNA is discovered years later is incorrect? so might the married man who divorces the child’s mother.
            You’ve given no reason to describe the mans commitment to his own offspring, but not someone else’s as conditional.

            • actually it seems like the genetic dad’s commitment as described, is pretty darn unconditional. He continues to fork over the dough to a child he barely gets to see, who’se living with another man he calls daddy….
              Would the mother’s new hubby have agreed to do that?

              • yes I love this scenario that I just dreamed up!
                Kid goes to live with former boyfriend aka genetic dad.
                Mom: (to new hubby). “Why don’t you send over some child support? After all you said you were willing to parent this child unconditionally”
                Do you really see the husband agreeing to this??? I don’t.

                • K he will pay on her support obligation to her child that is what step father’s do. That is why legal step parenthood benefits children. Yes people who marry people who have children with others agree to pay support to that child if they live with the other parent. But they can get out of it by divorce. Unfortunately naming the new husband as father gets him signed up for life. The child looses his father’s support in the deal when he could have had his father’s support and the mother’s support which is increased by her joint marital income the step father’s earnings help her support her child.

                • What I don’t see is the new hubby agreeing to assume the permanent roll of father or the semi permanent roll of step father where in both cases he helps support the child if she were going to leave him to live with the bio dad or just leave him period. Hubby’s commitment is MOST CONDITIONED. If he were not married to the mother and was not her boyfriend you can bet he would not be unconditional about raising that kid without a DNA positive result. Julie is fabricating noble commitment to the child where there is none. Maybe it serves her agenda better but Julie you do see the holes in that position now right? Saying you’ll commit to raise a child regardless of the results of a DNA test would only be as noble as you want it to be if he was willing to do it regardless of whether or not the mother was connected to him romantically. And if he wanted to do it regardless of whether or not the mother were connected romantically then that would be odd. Would you give him the title then?Would his committment make him a father in your eyes if she were leaving him? The man who commits to the child regardless of the relationship with the mother is the one who is really committed to the child. The man who commits to the child if the mother is committed to him is only committed to the mother and the kid is an accessory to that relationship. One man is committed to the child the other is committed to the woman. Julie’s argument won’t stand up because there are conditions to it and those conditions turn on a temporary relationship rather than a permanent one.

  4. the more I think about it Julie it is impossible to argue with you because you begin with this axiom that is at odds with most of society, particularly male society, and that is the irrelevance of genetics. and no matter what you simply refuse to challenge this axiom. It is the bottom line for you. I find this very illogical of you and you seem to be quite logical in other areas.

    • You’re right that one of my core assumptions is that DNA should not be the defining measure of legal parenthood–if that’s what you mean by “this axiom.” And I know that many who write here (and many people generally) think that it should be. But is there any more logic behind that viewpoint than there is behind mine? What exactly is the logic of DNA as the defining measure of legal parenthood?

      Legal parenthood is a construct created by people, just as the law generally is a set of rules created by people. Since it is created by people, we can make choices about how it is shaped. So genetics could be the sole defining factor of legal parenthood or it could be one of a number of factors in some complicated scheme or it could be completely irrelevant. This is a choice we get to make. One recurrent question here is what choice we ought to make–what are the ramifications of making one or the other? Ultimately we can think about what is the best choice–and of course that requires us to figure out what we mean by “best.”

      It may be that more people would vote for a genetic based test than for the other possiblities–I’m not sure, actually. But I don’t mean to set this up as an election determined by popular preference. The question really is what is the best for us as a society or perhaps for children generally.

      I think I have tried in many places to explain why I think moving away from genetics is the better option. Perhaps I have not convinced anyone, but so it goes. But it is striking to me that I don’t think there’s been a really good argument offered for why the genetic-based definition is a better one.

      • we did it a hundred times Julie on this blog.

        • ok but here goes:
          1. because it’s a basic part of human psychology. the evidence is all around you. The fact that a small minority of people experience don’t experience it this way doesn’t change that. The gazillions of people for whom this is true don’t seem to be at all relevant to you.
          2. the cultural norms and mores in almost all societies agree with this. Certainly ours does. You keep pointing to illegitimacy laws as proof against this. But then you seem to agree that illegitimacy laws are unfair. Contradictory.
          3. Your attempt to deny this locks you into all sorts of contradictions like the above and you have yet to define another definition of fatherhood whose criteria is consistent. I would say that is the most important point.

          4. you generally justify your position by saying that a person who has done nothing for the kid shouldn’t get parental authority for the kid. We all agree with you on that. we call that person a bad parent, not a non parent. it’s a straw argument.

          • On “about this blog” you wrote
            “By building slowly, case by case, story by story, I hope to slowly develop a rich and layered understanding of what it means to be a parent, one that perhaps, some day, the law can learn from.”

            This is what I mean I said you have no consistent definition.
            You want to develop one.
            Problem is, there already is a common understanding.
            For whatever reason that remains unbeknownst to me, you don’t like the societal norm THAT ALREADY EXISTS, and thus wish to create a new one.
            How is that logical?

            most social norms are fuzzy at the borders and this is no different. pointing out some fuzzy border areas does NOT mean the concept is nonexistant.

            • Remember that this is about law. Legal parentage has never been defined solely by reference to genetics. To put that differently, genetic parenthood and legal parenthood have never totally overlapped. Should it be that way? Maybe your answer to this is yes, but that is a radical change from how law is and has been.

              I think the law has attempted to capture social norms–perhaps unsuccessfully, but it has tried. That’s why the husband is the legal father of a child a wife gives birth to–because that’s the norm. That’s why a person using third-party gametes is seen as the legal parent, too.

              The norms are stretched and fuzzy and challenged in today’s society which makes me think there is a lot up for grabs. You could prevail in a few years and maybe legal parenthood will match up to genetics. But it isn’t true today and it wasn’t true yesterday either. All of which is to say that I’m not sure I’m so far off the norms–it’s just that you and I are pretty far apart on this stuff.

              • Well, it certainly seems to be going in that direction – I know at least two states changed the law this year that an unmarried man can now challenge the husband’s paternity – one by legislature, one by state supreme court ruling. So it seems more states are changing the law to allow it, and I haven’t heard of any states changing the law to strengthen the husband’s rights over the bio father. I think the marital presumption was based more on the thought way back then that “The husband is usually going to be the bio father anyway, and we have no way to prove he is or isn’t, so better to just make sure someone is required to take care of the kid, and since illegitimacy has a stigma, let’s reduce it whenever possible,” rather than the husband having a moral right to the child.

          • I appreciate you’re doing this and I promise I will take the time to think this through. I may well take it up into a post if that is okay with you. I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone really do what you just did here in the past and it has been frustrating to me.

            I don’t have the time to really think about what you’ve said, so for now I’ll just promise to get back to it.

            • While your addressing Ki’s statements throw in a couple of the tough ones of mine you’ve tabled for further thought and later discussion

            • Julie why do people who want to raise other people’s offspring seek to become legally recognized as parents of those children rather than legally recognized as adoptive parents or step parents both of which would accurately record the children in question as being the offspring of someone else?

              If you are the adoptive parent of a minor child it goes without saying that the child is someone else’s offspring. Adoptive parents names get put on amended birth records that are not counted by the State or Federal government as vital statistics because their information undermine the validity of medical research that assumes parents on birth certificates are actually related to the children named on the certificate. There is a difference between being a parent and an adoptive parent and that difference is that the child is the offspring of his or her parents but not the offspring of his or her adoptive parents.

              Marital presumption allows people to be legally recognized as parents of other people’s offspring when they should actually be recorded as adoptive parents or step parents. Why do you favor this system that skips the recording of the genetic parents? Its clearly vital information from a medical standpoint and much is lost by not recording them. Its also hasty to assume the genetic parent is incapable of caring for the child they created. Why should they not be held responsible until it can be proven the child is unsafe in their care? Should it be that children should be proven to be safe in their genetic parents care before they are sent home with them? Should all genetic parents be required to adopt their own offspring before taking them home? What if they fail to pass the homestudy?

              Adoptive means the child is not related to you why are we letting some people pretend to be parents rather than calling them adoptive – its genetic relatedness that is the difference there and the title of parent or adoptive parent is given before either develop a relationship with the child as a child, before any work is done. Its based upon whether or not you meet the criteria of genetic or meet the criteria of court approved.

        • I was about to say the list of logical reasons is long long long. Julie’s list of reasons has to do with the fact that someone else could do as good or better a job. So what?

          Wherever there is a social parent succeeding their is a genetic parent failing. An outsider cannot insert themselves so early into the process as to make that unpleasant truth go away. No matter how good a job that social parent does, it will never make up for the fact that the genetic parent failed to take care of the child themselves. They are there only because the genetic parent is not there. Any time a genetic parent does not raise their own child its a tragedy whether they are abusive horrible monsters or precious angels it is a tragedy that they were incapable of handling the task of raising their offspring with love and committment. So the social or adoptive parents presence can be a blessing and the child can be far better off with them than the genetic parent but its only a blessing because the other parent was an abysmal failure. The child had to loose something he or she deserved in order to be cared for by the really great social parent.

          I wish you’d recognize that its a tragedy when a child can’t be raised by both genetic parents and be a legally recognized member of his or her own genetic family. One does not have to come at the expense of the other. What is wrong with being a step parent the child gets way more benefit out of that relationship than they would step parent adopted or donor offspring bumrusshed into being quasi marital children.

  5. I think that’s probably unfair to the potential father who makes the conditional offer. It’s not really a question of commitment to the project. The potential father who makes the conditional offer might be just as committed to, and just as invested in, being a father to the child as the other potential father, if that child is his genetic child. So effectively your proposal forces him to make a difficult and undesirable choice: he must either renounce his interest in being a father to a genetic child of his (which might be very important to him, for powerful and natural human reasons), or he must embrace the substantial possibility of a serious and unwanted commitment to a child that is not genetically his.

  6. The potential biological father of the child wants to play this role if he is indeed the biological father of the child. This is a factual relationship that can be proven and demonstrated with certainty and also one that cannot dissolve at a whim like marriages and relationships sometimes do.

    One can look at situations like this in this way: the man interested in the woman is ready to play the role of her child’s father – no matter who the child is and who the child’s related to. But when he breaks up with the mother he might not be interested in her child any more.

    The potential biological father is interested in the child – but only his very specific and particular child, not any random child born by the woman. He is interested in the child who is his ancestors’ descendant and who is linked to him in a way that can never be dissolved. Is this so very bad and selfish and horrible to the child in question? Not necessarily.

  7. “It makes parentage too simple, too easy. It’s not about commitment and dedication–it’s just about genetics.”
    Well that all depends on how you structure the law. If you structure the law that requires genetic parents to care for their offspring than it certainly is about commitment. If you support donor-uncles and other such sundry arrangements than you have only yourself to blame for taking commitment out of the genetic equation.

    • ooooh that’s good K. I’m going to be thinking about that for a while. Nicely said.

      • yeah, its about how we structure the law and how it makes sex about commitment. Separating marriage and conception rights has consequences in how people act. We need to affirm that marriage is about the right to have sex and conceive offspring together with a federal general law that sets the effect of marriage, as per the FF&C clause.

  8. I think as long as he requests the DNA test at a reasonable time (while the child is still very young), the potential father should be able to have the test done before having to take responsbility for the child. I don’t think a father should be able to sit around for months deciding what to do, but if he asks at birth I don’t think it’s unreasonable to let him find out the results so he only raises the child if it’s his child. DNA tests don’t take very long.

  9. Let’s start with a question: Do you feel that we should change the law so that males are no longer physically and financially responsible for raising their own offspring to adulthood? Do you feel that physical and financial responsibility for raising offspring to adulthood should be the exclusive responsibility of the woman who gives birth? It does not matter that all men are not currently required to support their own offspring, most men are which means that most children would be entitled to receive support from the man who has the positive paternity test so there is a group of people under the age of 18 that currently don’t have the same rights as those other lucky kids. Do you think a good way to even the playing field is to make it so that no child is entitled to financial or physical support based on the results of a paternity test?

    Every time I ask you that question you give me the same response about how men should be financially responsible but not have the right to raise their offspring and should not be named on the birth record as the child’s parent because too many rights stem from having his name there. Your right so many rights stem from having his name on the birth record, not his but the child’s rights and the rights of the rest of the paternal family also stem from having his name on that certificate. His parents and siblings have a right to go get copies of his birth marriage and death certificates as well as have a right to get his kids birth, marriage and death certificates. They have a right to know the identities of his offspring and his offspring has the very same rights to copies of his birth marriage and death certificates as well as those of his other children and his parents and his siblings. The way a person proves they have that right is to present the registrar with a birth record naming that man as their father. It proves their identity as a member of his family entitling them to valuable family medical information contained on those records and other valuable information like the names of spouses and addresses where they all lived when the certificates are recorded. That is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of rights that flow to a person’s offspring by virtue of having their name appear on that certificate as parent. That is a tremendous loss for the person when their certificate lists a non genetic parent because they loose membership in their own family and gain absolutely nothing by naming their parent’s spouse that they would not have had if that person had simply been their legal step parent. You can claim your step siblings and step relatives as your legal dependents on tax returns if your caring for them as an adult and you can qualify for time off work to attend a step parent or step relative’s funeral or to care for an ill step relative but you cannot qualify for any of those benefits when you are nothing more than legal strangers to your own genetic kin. Your step parent’s income is calculated into your parents support obligation so step parents have to help support you while you are under age and if you are listed as their dependent on their tax return when they die you will receive their social security death benefits and step parents can take their step children to the doctor and enroll them in socer teams and pick them up from school because they are acting with the permission of the parent to whom they are married. The child benefits from the step parents presensce in their life without loosing a tremendous amount of rights in terms of benefits extended to individuals and their family members. So when a mother wants her new partner to adopt her child away from his or her deadbeat x the child is going to gain nothing and loose a ton. When a person names their spouse as parent of their child rather than naming the genetic parent the child is going to gain nothing and loose a ton and so is the whole paternal family as well their rights are also compromised by that decision.

    Really the very best senario for the child is for the genetic parents to assume their responsibilities equally regardless of whether or not they are together as a couple and work together with their respective partners or spouses if they have them, to create good environments at their respective homes where their offspring can learn and grow and benefit from solid relationships with their maternal and paternal relatives and also with their step families.

    The senario you describe has a man who wants to be sure that a child is his offspring before assuming responsibility for the child because he is not married to the child’s mother. The man who is married to the child’s mother is going to have to take responsibility for the child physically and financially whether he likes it or not because his income will be included in determining the mother’s support obligation. Unless he plans to get divorced from her he is on the hook to help raise her kid for the the duration of the marriage by law. So really his offer to raise the kid is not all that earth shattering. That is what we expect of step parents because their property and income is all wound up with that of the spouse who has the extramarital kid. So he’s already on the hook for her kid because he has that marital relationship. The guy who might be the genetic father of the child is not married to her and would not be on the hook to help her support an unrelated child for the duration of their romantic relationship because there is no romantic relationship and her problems are not his problems the way her problems are her husband’s. So its completely unreasonable for him to be expected to take on the responsibility of supporting her child by another man since they do not share assets and liabilities.
    The whole reason we have step parenthood is to not create a permanent relationship where none exists. Naming the spouse as a parent on a birth record when you know that person is unrelated to the child takes advantage of the presumption of paternity and the presumption of a permanent relationship making a temporary relationship legally permanent and then having to legally ignor the child’s actual permanent family because the Mom creates such a cluster fk with her lies that the State would rather let the error stand than try to set the record straight and record the identity of the child’s real father.
    None of these things I’m talking about have anything to do with the emotional bonds that are forged between a child and the adults raising them. You can call those people anything and it won’t change how they feel about one another. You are looking at the fact that the unmarried man only wants to be named as father if he has a positive paternity test as a sign he is not really committed to the child. You think the guy that is really committed is the one who is willing to be named father regardless whether or not the child is related to him. Well if he is truly committed to the child then he would be willing to be there for that child without having to have his name listed as father on the birth certificate so that the child would not be excluded from his or her paternal family and could benefit from the additional financial support that the father would be required to give. So lets look at who is really committed to going out on a limb. Will the mother’s spouse divorce her and walk away from her child if he does not get named as father of the other guy’s offspring? Is he only sticking around in order to get that lofty coveted title or does he really care about her kid and want to help her raise her offspring from another man? He’s going to have to help unless he divorces her so to me I’m wondering if he might up and leave over getting his ego bruised.

    None of this is about what is good for the child its about what is good for the mother’s ego. Everyone needs to grow up and work together so that the child does not have to loose out on anything just because his or her parents don’t happen to be married to one another. It is possible to cooperate even if they do not know one another at first. They can set that aside for the benefit of their joint offspring. The parent who is willing to do the heavy lifting of compromise in order that the kid may benefit from all the interested adults has my vote and I think the vain mother should follow his cue.

  10. “suppose you have two potential candidates for legal father of a child.” One man says “I will be the father of the child (by which he means I will take on the myriad of responsibilities) if and only if the DNA shows that I am genetically related to that child.” The other man says “I’ll be the father of the child (same meaning) no matter what the DNA shows. I don’t care.” Should we prefer one or the other of these men? Do we need to do the DNA test?”

    So we have two men who do not know if a particular child is their offspring or not because they both slept with the same woman around the same time and both are willing to take on all the responsibilities of raising that child to adulthood but only if their respective conditions are met. Guy number 1 will raise the child if the paternity test comes back positive regardless of the fact that he is not in a romantic relationship with the child’s mother. Guy number two will raise the child regardless of the paternity results but only if he is in a romantic relationship woth the mother. Would he be just as willing to take on that unrelated child if she were to say to him that she is breaking off the relationship and moving in with the genetic father or someother man entirely? His committment to that child does, at the moment entirely hinge on whether or not the mother is romantically involved with him. Would he be saying the same thing had she stayed with the other guy? Would he be fighting for custody of that kid? Their relationship is one she can opt out of and she already has shown a lack of dedication to fidelity. He is just as wishy washy as you claim the genetic father is only he is willing to be there for the child regardless of the relationship with the mother not working out. Hey as a matter of fact the same thing goes for the other guy he would be willing to take care of the kid if it were his genetically even if he was not in a relationship with the mother because the law would obligate him to. The only reason he’s willing to take on antoher man’s kid is because well he;s married to her and he has no choice if he does not want to get divorced.

    He would be doing the very same thing had she gone to live with the other guy so your giving him sainthood way too quick.

  11. I understand the value of DNA when it comes to medical issues, but not beyond that. One doesn’t become a parent just by donating sperm/eggs. One becomes a parent by doing the hard work of parenting (including gestating in the case of women). I believe people should be financially responsible for their actions if their actions result in a child, but I wouldn’t call that, by itself, parenting.

    • i object to the use of the word parent as a verb. Parenthood isn’t a job; it’s a relationship. And relationships don’t work that way like jobs do. And if that’s not fair, well that’s life.

      • what is the verb you would prefer Kali use in place of “parent”? We don’t really have a single word to describe the activity of being a person’s legal guardian permanent care-giver full-time custodian.

        • What Ki is saying is that parent is a noun, not a verb. When open adoption started is when the word parent started being used as a verb. Google archives and you will see that the term “to parent” was invented right around the time the term “birth mother” came into vogue. Parents don’t parent their children they raise their children or rear them. Thing is, anyone can raise or rear a child; you don’t need to be a parent to raise or rear a child. You can be a Grandmother or an Aunt a dear friend or a total stranger in the case of many adoptive situations and raise or rear another person’s child. Well adopting couples wanted to feel like real parents and wanted that title without the qualifier adoptive in front of the word parent. So they started saying things like the birth mother decided to parent the child rather than saying she decided to raise her child herself. They get to become parents by raising children by replacing the terms to raise or to rear with the term to parent. Its a ridiculous term.

          • OK, right, “raise” is the verb I was asking about. I couldn’t think of it. So Kali should say that being financially responsible is not, by itself, “raising a child.” And she should say “one does not become a “raiser of children” just by donating sperm or eggs. No wait, that’s a noun again, so can she still use “parent” there? Or should she say “legal parent”?

            • I think I know your on line persona well enough to know when your tongue is in your cheek and your yanking our collective chain.

              So take Kali’s statement and use the real term which is raise or raising or some variation of that in place of where ever she used the word parent inappropriately as a verb because its slang.
              So her statement becomes:

              “One becomes a parent by doing the hard work of raising a child (including gestating in the case of women).”

              “I believe people should be financially responsible for their actions if their actions result in a child, but I wouldn’t call that, by itself, raising a child.”

              See how putting the correct word there makes all the difference? Nope I would not call being financially responsible for our offspring the same thing as raising them. Who would? Many parents foot the bill from afar and they are still parents or they would not be made to foot the bill.

              Its an absurd idea that you become a parent after you do the work of raising a child. You don’t become an adoptive parent after you do the work of raising a child do you? If you had to do the work first before you were granted the title then who would be responsible for children when they were just born? Nobody? Someone has to be responsible for the child by default in order for them to begin doing the work or be faulted for not doing it.

              Adoptive parents are notorious for saying that giving birth does not make a woman a mother or that genetic relatedness does not make a person a parent. They will go on and on about how doing the hard work of raising the child and being there makes a person a mother. But then they clam up when its pointed out that they were calling themselves parents (or adoptive parents) before the ink was even dry on the adoption decree at a point where they had not kissed any skinned knees or attended any soccer games. Exactly how much time raising a kid do you need before you qualify as a parent? 6 months shy of the kid’s 18th birthday they should have to submit a form approving or denying the request of the people who raised them to become legally recognized parents having completed the job of raising the child. Have to earn it by raising the child. Pishaw tsk tsk. Touchy feely crap.
              Does a grandmother or aunt who does the raising need to be called parent in order to do the job? Should she be?

              • If you had to do the work first before you were granted the title then who would be responsible for children when they were just born? Nobody? Someone has to be responsible for the child by default in order for them to begin doing the work or be faulted for not doing it.

                I am including gestating in the work that goes into raising a child. When the child is born, the mother is the legal parent by default. I believe that the person/people doing the work of raising the child should have the legal rights and responsibilities of parenthood, whatever label one uses for them – legal guardian or legal parent. If the bio parent is not doing the work of raising the child, then the bio parent should not have any rights or responsibilities beyond financial responsibility when needed for the benefit of the child. If the bio parent has not been given the opportunity to do the work of raising the child and wants to start, then the current legal parent(s) should have the final say in the matter while keeping the best interests of the child in mind.

                This is all separate from the issue of having DNA records for medical reasons. One doesn’t need to be a legal parent to provide this information for the bio-child.

                • so basically you believe fatherhood exists at the discretion of the mother only

                • Right but why would you include gestating as part of the work of raising a child when there is no child yet? They are not parents yet they are expectant parents. As long as both parents show up at birth ready to work it does not matter where the baby was gestated or where the father was for the last 9 months. Now they have offspring and now they have a responsibility.

                  You make it sound like possession is 9/10 of the law and because the woman who gives birth happens to be in possession of the baby when its born that makes her the parent – she gestated the fetus. What she does is house a developing life form. Gestational carriers develop someone else’s film. The images inside are not of her. Its not her kid. I’ve been pregnant lots of times and gestation is not what makes a woman a mom, having offspring makes me a mom and that is the origin of my responsiblity to my children. I caused my child therefore she’s my problem to deal with. Its reasonable fair.

  12. Your a parent if you have offspring. You don’t have to raise your child in order to be the child’s parent. Other people can raise your child and the child is still yours and you are still that child’s parent your just not a particularly engaged one and the child likely has a deeper bond with his or her adoptive parent or step parent or foster parent or legal guardian than he does with you the parent who is absent.

  13. Children don’t generally have a choice about how much contact they have with their genetic parents – they don’t have a say in whether they are adopted at birth or whether their parents stay together or get divorced. But they should have the right to know who their biological parents are and have a relationship with them if that is feasible in the circumstances. The test should be done asap because Herndon’s child has the right to know who his/her father is.

    If circumstances mean that another man takes the day to day role of father and that is how the adults and the courts have decided it will work, then fair enough. The responsibilities of paternity are a different matter from the child’s rights.

    Of course as a woman I can understand why Herndon chose to stay with her ex over the bio father of her baby if she felt her relationship with the bio dad was contingent on the child being his – it’s an extremely unpleasant situation to find yourself in on either side. But paternal responsibility doesn’t go to the nicest candidate, it should start with the bio father.

  14. yay chris.

  15. Somehow, NOBODY ever comments other side of the coin. What, if woman have a child, and in hospital mistakenly, or intentionaly somebody swap the children, and she will end up raising another woman child for let’s say- 15 years? Imagine scandal and law suit. Public backlash. Millions of $ as an compensation for her. If this happens to the woman. But if this happens to the man, he is double victimized- by his women, and the law.

    • Yay Richard 1960. I’ve helped LOTS of men find their children who were stolen through paternity fraud. Imagine being away at war getting shot at and you get a letter from your girlfriend saying you got her pregnant…but not to worry she married someone else so your baby would have a father. Aint nothin you can do to get your child back. This is so sad. Luckily many fathers held out hope that they would be with their children some day and they get to if they try hard enough. They should not have to try. Women should not do that to the fathers of their children.

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