“Paternity Suits” and testing in the 21st century
By: Richard F. Gould-Saltman

            We’ve come a long way, both legally, and scientifically, since the days when the judge had Joan Berry hold up her baby Carol, and a jury got to decide that  baby Carol looked enough like Charlie Chaplin, that he must be the daddy, even though (although the jury didn’t know) a blood test had established that he couldn’t be.  (Berry v. Chaplin (1946))

            While blood tests have been routinely admissible to exclude a man as a father for half a century now, the certainty with which testing now permits determination that he almost certainly is the father has advanced by huge leaps in the last two decades.   The technology of DNA testing is now sufficiently precise, cheap and efficient that reasonably persuasive determinations of “paternity probability” (i.e., certainty of up to 98-99%) can be made for a few hundred dollars  from “cheek scrape”genetic testing of alleged dad and baby alone, before any sample from Mom is obtained.      If Dad isn’t around, (dead, refusing to cooperate, hiding) but some of Dad’s blood relatives are around, it may be possible to establish parentage conclusively by testing the child, mom, and some of Dad’s relatives.

            What does this mean?  Well, it makes  “you play, you pay” pretty much the law, as well as a cliche.     The California state parentage act, and state child support guidelines apply to any child conceived in California, or whose father lives or does business in California, regardless of where Daddy now lives, and regardless of whether the child was born “out of wedlock”.  California has jurisdiction, under those circumstances, to order alleged dad to undergo blood testing, once served with papers, and, if he refuses, to determine that he’s legally daddy based upon the refusal.   “She told me she wasn’t going to get pregnant” isn’t a defense; “She told me she wouldn’t ask for support if I bought her a [car/house/ring]” isn’t either

              The state guidelines result in some of the highest child support orders in the country, particularly where the non-custodial parent spends little or no time with the child, and makes significantly more than the custodial parent.  The number of other children high-earner non-custodial dad has makes relatively little difference.