Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Chaos, neatly packaged in a box.

The other day I was listening to the radio on my way to school when an advertisement aired selling home paternity tests. Never mind that I am not in the market for paternity testing, I was fascinated. I wonder, does anyone really know the chaos this will cause if it catches on?

In the United States, there is a presumption of paternity for children born within a marriage. As my daughter said after I explained this to her, “You mean, I can have an affair with the postman, but any baby would legally be considered my husband’s.” Precisely. The policy reason underlying the legal doctrine of presumptive paternity is that an estimated ten percent of children born within marriages are not the husband’s children. To maintain social order, courts have decided that there is a presumption of paternity so that not every bitter, divorcing man tries to deny paternity of his children.

In my opinion, easy, home-based paternity testing (just rub the swab on the inner cheek and three days later you will have your results!), has the potential to cause social havoc. Courts may hold a man legally to be a child’s father, with support obligations, etc., if the man has reared the child as his own for a long period. However, a court order cannot prevent a man from pulling away emotionally from the child. In addition, if a child suddenly finds out that the father he believed to be his own, is not, this will likely result in psychological damage as well.

So, there you have it. The potential for chaos, neatly packaged in a box.

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