A statistic shared by the American Association of Blood Banks in 2012 revealed that there were reportedly 100,000 out of 300,000 men who fall victim to paternity fraud per year in this country. According to an article published on a national Nigerian news site, a significant number of men in that country are unknowingly bringing up children who are not theirs biologically. More recently, DNA experts have found that these figures have increased in Nigeria within the past year. What’s going on here?
In the United States, paternity fraud is recognized and handled as a criminal offense. It happens more often than we think and is often done in an attempt to obtain higher child support benefits than can be provided by the biological father. Or better yet, to hide infidelity. It’s a messed up situation, however, in Nigeria, cases like these are often swept under the rug and rarely result in legal action. Culturally, West African fathers often care for their children as well as children born out of wedlock, children from extramarital affairs, and children from a different father if they are in a relationship with the mother. A majority of the cases have more to do with creating a stable family for the children regardless of if he’s the real father or not. In Nigeria and other African countries, it’s also not uncommon for some women to marry for status even if they already have children, and it is also not uncommon for men to have several women with whom they have children with. As for the way things play out Stateside, it’s much different. Men and women are less likely to care financially for a child who isn’t theirs biologically. Being a key figure or positive role model in a child’s life is one thing, but being mandated by courts into child support is another, and questions fairness. But it happens all the time. Just ask the singer Ne-Yo, who was forced to pay child support for a boy his ex-girlfriend made him believe was his own–until a DNA test cleared things up:
“In the state of California, if you put yourself out there as the father, the mother can then come after you in court like you’re the biological father,” Ne-Yo told VH1. “So we settled out of court for what I thought was an ungodly amount of money. Shortly after that, Jesseca and Chimere vanished.”
Across the globe, men are falling victim to paternity fraud and are being ordered by family courts to pay child support for kids who aren’t theirs. For cases in Nigeria, many of the men accept the responsibility of being the caretaker because it is much more affordable than getting tangled in a court battle. Some men have voiced that even when a DNA test proves the impossibility of fatherhood, it is still really difficult to get out of child support once it has been established. It’s sad because they shouldn’t have to be mandated to pay it if the child isn’t their own, especially since they were initially misled. However, paternity fraud is a complicated thing.
But if by choice they want to remain a father figure in the child’s life, that doesn’t involve the legal system. And while many people don’t stick around after being misled in such a way, some do because they are the only father figure the child knows. It’s a commendable thing to do for the sake of the kid, who is innocent in all of this.
So I ask, if the tables were turned and you were a man who found out that a child you cared for wasn’t your own, would you continue to be in their life? What if the child has grown considerably close to you? Would you continue to provide for them?