From Here to Paternity

A California law giving men two years to challenge a paternity claim is about to expire. The two years is in addition to a six-month period following the initial claim.

‘…DNA paternity testing under a little-known state law allows men a brief amnesty period to prove they are not a child’s father and erase huge debt or avoid more payments. The life of that law, however, is about to end….The law enacted in 2005 allows for a two-year period of time to challenge their paternity. Though there is confusion, the law could end as soon as Oct. 28 or by the end of [this] year.

The law applies to men who did not fight, for one reason or another, the mother’s paternity claim in the six months after being served by the state with papers naming them as the father.’

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The Record

This is, of course, simply about child support and responsibility. Mothers want child support for their children, the state (rightly so) wants the responsible party to pay it, and men (rightly so) want to be sure they’re the father before paying anything. 1,455 California men filed challenges in 2005, with 397 being cleared of paternity.

But two-and-a-half years?

‘”A lot of times, guys will get served with this stuff, say ‘I’m not the father of this child,’ and throw it away,” said San Joaquin County Superior Court Commissioner Herbert Horstmann, who presides over paternity cases and backs the law.’

Where’s my World’s Smallest Violin? I know I had it here, somewhere…

This is the State of California, not Publisher’s Clearing House. If you receive a notice from the State that you’ve been named the father of a child, why—why—would you ignore it? Why would you allow your wages to be garnished for six months, and not say something to somone? And why should we encourage such irresponsible behavior?

San Joaquin County’s family law facilitator, Sheila Ballin, ‘wish[es] [the amnesty period] would stay open forever’. As it is now, a man can implicitly accept his (financial) paternal responsiblities for two years and still have six months to change his mind.

I’m all for grace. Believe me. But even God gives us a deadline.

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