Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Despite the clear and unambiguous wording of the Thirteenth Amendment it is apparent that today there are at least 1.5 million men indentured to pay for children who are not theirs. Ronald Henry, writing in the American Bar Association Family Law Journal, estimates there are 800,000 cases in California alone. Presently, approximately 30% of all DNA paternity tests exclude the man from being the father of the child(ren) in question. Thus, as an upper limit, as many as 1.2 million men may be enslaved every year to support children they have no biological relationship with.
This epidemic of injustice has been labeled paternity fraud and has a devastating impact on men, children, and, often, women. Such fraud is routinely imposed upon the courts without punishment and adultery has become a meaningless term.
Paternity fraud victims are disproportionately poor and minorities, and a significant number are also very young men. Such men are poorly equipped to defend themselves even if they are properly served and the hearing is in a local court, which all too frequently is not the case.
Henry notes that the overall rate of default judgements in California is 71% of all paternity cases and in Los Angeles County the rate is an appalling 80%. No state is known to have less than a 30% default paternity judgement rate.
Once a paternity order is entered, paternity fraud victims are mercilessly subjected to wage garnishment; asset seizure; professional and drivers license denial; passport denial; tax refund interception; public humiliation through "most wanted" posters; arrest, criminal fines, imprisonment, and other destructive penalties, including torture, virtually without recourse. Suicide is all too common among such victims.
Victims of paternity fraud may not have even heard of the woman who claims he fathered her child(ren). In one famous case a woman in Los Angeles County, California, named Manuel Nava as the father of her two boys. Based on the information provided, and no doubt using the National Directory of New Hires and other state and federal databases to make sure the victim had an income, county officials determined without evidence that one Manuel Navarro was the father in question. After all a man is guilty until proven innocent in these cases. Thanks to attorney Linda Ferrer, the Navarro case resulted in a landmark victory in California and his child support obligation was ended after an 8 year battle. But he didn't get his money back and the paternity lottery hasn't ended.
In another case in New Mexico the child didn't even exist and DNA tests were falsified.
Ronald Henry notes that paternity fraud has always been a risk for cuckolded husbands and for wealthy or famous men. He gives the example of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, whose former wife faked DNA tests for her 4-year-old daughter and demanded more than $320,000 child support from him.
In a Michigan case the court ordered the cuckolded husband to pay child support to the biological father of the child.
And the list goes on. Such injustices have led some states to pass laws allowing men unlimited time to prove they are not the biological father. After voters booted Gray Davis out of office as California governor, their legislature passed a law, AB 252, allowing paternity fraud victims to come forward before January 1, 2007, with proof of nonpaternity and have their child support obligations dropped. However, only three months are left for that program so anyone in, or with a case in California who is, or knows someone who is a victim of paternity fraud, are urged to immediately submit a motion for relief.
However, as of 2006, in Colorado once a paternity judgement is entered, or a divorce finalized, a man cannot use DNA evidence to prove he is not the father, even if he was in Iraq at the time of conception, or the judgement was entered and he never received notice of the hearing. For such efforts Drop the GOP gave Colorado state senator Steve Johnson their 2005 Single Biggest IDIOT On Earth award. And in 2006 the idiocy of Steve Johnson was compounded by state senator Shawn Mitchell, though he faces strong competition trying to get the 2006 IDIOT award.
There is little question that it is in the best interest of a child to be associated as closely as possible with their biological father whether for developmental or medical reasons, or financial stability. However, the science of genetics has made it abundantly clear that all too often husbands and boyfriends are not the biological father of Cupcake's child.
Rather than using science to attempt to match up children with their biological fathers, which would benefit everyone, legislatures, courts, bureaucracies, and, especially women, have used draconian powers to indenture any man named with the wherewithal to nominally provide support for the woman's child(ren), though she gets to spend the money.
Enslaving one man to pay for another man's fun, frolic, and child(ren), and a woman's adultery and lies, would logically seem to be the worst possible approach a society might take to the problem. However, as Ronald Henry points out, the present system is driven by the great engine of federal incentives to establish paternity. States that "establish" paternity in over 90% of child support cases receive large bonuses from the federal government. And if a man isn't named as the father, and a paternity judgement entered against him, the child support comes out of the public purse. Thus, any man the mother cares to name is accepted with little question or investigation. If a man wants a paternity test the onus is on him. But if he never receives notice of the hearing, how is he to question the judgement? And there seem to be few reliable checks to see if the children being supported even exist.
In the past to be a gold digger a woman probably had to be young and attractive. Today, all she need do is go to a Child Support Enforcement (CSE) office and claim a man, any man, fathered a child (there isn't even any real requirement to prove the child is corporeal), and a massive, ruthless bureaucracy swings into action to ensure the named man supports her.
With current science it isn't difficult to end paternity fraud. DNA tests are routinely done by many laboratories throughout the United States and the rest of the world at a cost of a few hundred dollars at most. Henry favors in-hospital paternity testing when the child is born, which certainly should be done whenever possible. An in-hospital DNA test as soon after birth as practical would also minimize the chances of falsifying the results, which appears to be quite easy to do at a later date.
However, today at least one third of children are born out of wedlock and the putative father is frequently not present, or even informed about the birth. Also military men are commonly deployed when a child is born. As these cases are the ones most likely to be involved in paternity fraud, the only reasonably sure way to end the problem is to require a DNA test, with careful attention to the chain of evidence, before any child support order is entered either in a divorce or paternity judgement (if the couple aren't married). Exceptions should only be allowed for adopted children.
Obviously, if, for whatever reasons, the father can't be located for DNA testing then society will, in many cases, be left footing the bill to support the child. However, such costs are likely to be considerably less than what taxpayers are now paying for a dysfunctional child support enforcement bureaucracy that claims, through smoke and mirrors, that horrendous arrearages are owed by men, known as "deadbeat dads," who are frequently deceased, in prison, broke, or demonstrably are not the father of the children. And add to the cost of the CSE bureaucracy the expense of keeping paternity fraud slaves in jail when they get uppity and refuse to, or can't, pay, and the cost of publicly supporting any children whose fathers cannot be located and identified appears negligible. More likely, always requiring a paternity test before child support orders are entered would result in a net savings of several billion dollars a year over the current nightmare. It is also worth noting that CSE in England has proven so obviously dysfunctional that the entire system is being scrapped. The United States should do the same.
Clearly, under Article XIII, Section 2, of the Constitution Congress is specifically authorized to end indentured servitude in the form of paternity fraud. In a rational world they would expeditiously do so. However, in reality any action Congress takes is much more likely to make the problem worse, as Colorado's legislature has patently been doing these past several years.
So the destruction of children and men under color of law will likely continue. But Ronald Henry's efforts are much appreciated.