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How Many Paternity Fraud Victims?

HHSNobody knows for certain how many paternity victims there are. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spends approximately $4 billion per year on child support enforcement. It further sponsors enormous research efforts and demonstration projects, and claims credit for establishing more than one million paternities per year.  It maintains a huge Website.

HHS has decided not to study the number of paternity fraud victims until recently. This decision was a choice rather than a lack of awareness. The HHS Inspector General report on paternity establishment issued in April 2000 noted, "We did not attempt in our research to determine the proportion of default paternity orders which were eventually overturned."

The Inspector General Report is one of the few government documents too even acknowledge that false paternity establishments might be worthy of quantification.  The failure to quantify is not for lack of resources or opportunity.

As noted in an online article, the government:

Crunches the numbers every which way: total child support dollars collected per dollar of total expenditure, average amount collected per case, and so on. But nowhere does the state bother to count the number of citizens it has wrongfully names as fathers.  The bias is overwhelming, and the abuses are inevitable.
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Finding paternity fraud victims is not difficult.  Television host Maury Povich has made a career out of bringing scandalous paternity fraud stories to homes across America, but the child support bureaucracy has chosen not to quantify or identify them.

The only significant insight into the number of paternity fraud victims comes from the American Associations of Blood Blanks, which annually reports that approximately twenty-eight percent of all paternity tests exclude the targeted man. In California, there were 158,000 default paternity establishments in 2000.

Assuming the unwed couples that comprise a large portion of those default judgments were as monogamous as the average couple undergoing DNA testing, there would be approximately 44,000 false paternity establishments in California from default judgments every year. In eighteen years, that would almost be 800,000 false paternity establishments in California alone.

local lab works with law enforcementDefault judgments are not the only way of obtaining a false paternity establishment. Men who are married to the mother when a child is conceived or born, are automatically the "presumed father" under the law. The man has a very limited time to contest paternity, creating more paternity fraud victims. After the birth of a child, hospitals ask the father, or presumed father, to sign "Acknowledgement of Paternity Forms" whether they know for certain the child is theirs or not. Failure to sign the form is viewed negatively. Even if DNA test proves he is not the father later down the line, he is still held liable.

Taking into consideration all sources of false paternity establishments and the eighteen to twenty-one-year lifespan of a child support order, an estimate of one million obligor paternity fraud victims in the United States might be conservative.


Whether the number is one million, one hundred thousand, or ten thousand, significant numbers of paternity fraud victims exist and are suffering from the burdens imposed by false paternity establishments.  Unfortunately, there has been no interest in counting or identifying the number of victims, which may be due to every paternity fraud being seen as an embarrassment to the child support bureaucracy. Each paternity fraud victim is a potential reduction in performance statistics. Only the victims want to be counted and they do not control the research budget.

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