Local Feature · The Devil's Advocate

Rewriting paternity in the NC General Assembly

Right now in North Carolina, if you legally affirm that you are the father of a child upon that child’s birth, you have 60 days to “reneg” if on that affirmation of paternity; otherwise, if you discover later that you are not the father of the child, you may nevertheless be legally “stuck” as such, and be required to pay child support.  The thought goes, if you think there’s a chance you might not be the father of the child, dispute the matter before “paternal attachments” have been formed.

The Judiciary Committee of the NC Senate will be debating tomorrow about a bill that would allow you to challenge your paternity after the 60 days if the mother of the child defrauded you into making you believe the child was yours.

The law would essentially eliminate some ambiguity in the current system, an ambiguity that the courts of other states have been grappling with, especially over the past decade.  The NY Times Magazine ran an incredibly interesting long-form  piece about the issues at stake in November of 2009:

 In most states, judges put the interest of the child above that of the genetic stranger who unwittingly became her father — and that means requiring him to pay child support. Some judges have even rebuked nonbiological fathers for trying to weasel out of their financial obligations. “The laws should discourage adults from treating children they have parented as expendable when their adult relationships fall apart,” Florida’s top court held in a 2007 paternity decision, quoting a law professor. “It is the adults who can and should absorb the pain of betrayal rather than inflict additional betrayal on the involved children.”

If you feel strongly about this issue, you’re in luck–the sponsor for this legislation is Floyd McKissick, the State Senator for almost all Duke students.  Contact him by phone or email.

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