Paternity Fraud

Phantom Fatherhood

Paternity Fraud is real, common, and sometimes state-assisted. Social Services agencies force clients to name the father of a state-supported child, so the state can seek reimbursement for paid benefits. Sometimes any father will do. Notices of Paternity actions are served on "putative" fathers at their last known address as provided by the Mother, which could be an address last known only to the agency's client, and not ever known by the father.

Even if it was once the father's legitimate address, if no record of postal forwarding exists, the state will presume that imaginary address to be proper for purposes of legal notice and service of process. Years and years later, "phantom fathers" often find themselves facing incarceration for not supporting children they never knew they had.

Challenging paternity years after final judgment is often pre-empted by statutes of limitations or the futile search for evidence that the "phantom father" was residing at an address other than their "last known address." Even if the "last known address" was once the father's legitimate address.

 The Willing Father's Paternity Rights

Many men have fathered a child but are being excluded from proving parentage or participating in the child's life. Unmarried fathers, in these circumstances, need to have a paternity test. If the test verifies that the client is the father, the father will have decisions to make about their role in the child's life and how to pursue it. If the father decides he wants to be part of the child's life, our attorneys can begin the process of helping them claim parental rights and petitioning for parenting time. A father's rights attorney, like Glen Haley, can help men work through all the issues raised by an out-of-wedlock child.

Paternity Fraud in Marriages

Yes, it does occur, more often than imagined. While most paternity questions arise over out-of-wedlock births, we've also assisted men who have questioned the paternity of a child born during a marriage. While this situation is uncomfortable, our clients agree that knowing a child is not theirs is better than wondering about that child's heritage for the rest of their lives.

The Bottom Line on Paternity: DNA Testing

DNA testing results are virtually conclusive of paternity issues. If you know whether a child is yours, or not, you can decide what to do. When it comes to paternity, knowledge is power. Knowing who your genetic children are prevents paternity fraud, malicious claims for child support, petty denials of father's rights and inheritance questions down the road. 

Need more information about New Jersey Paternity Rights? Receive a free initial telephone consultation by calling the phone number for your area. For your convenience, we offer evening and weekend appointments, and accept all major credit cards.

Paternity fraud refers to a paternal discrepancy or a non-paternity event, in which a mother names a man to be the biological father of a child, particularly for self-interest, when she knows or suspects that he is not the biological father. The term entered into common use in the late 1990s. It has been given significant coverage by U.S. activists and authors Tom Leykis, Glenn Sacks, and Wendy McElroy.

Fathers' rights activists state that in cases of paternity fraud, there are many potential victims: the non-biological father, the child deprived of a relationship with the biological father, and the biological father who is deprived of his relationship with his child. Subsidiary victims include the child's and the non-biological father's families. In particular, financial hardship may have resulted for the non-biological father's other children and spouse in cases in which the man was forced to make child support payments for another man's child.

In many jurisdictions, there is limited opportunity to legally challenge the assumption of paternity. For example, by forbidding men to challenge paternity, especially in the context of marriage, by limiting the amount of time allowed to challenge paternity, or by allowing women to make a claim of paternity without adequate chance for rebuttal by the alleged father. In some jurisdictions, the husband of the mother of a child is held to be the father, regardless of biological relationship.


The ready availability of genetic fingerprinting allows men suspicious of the parentage of a child to request a paternity test to make positive identification of the father. In many countries, such tests require the consent of the mother or an order made by a family court though this is not universally true.


A 2005 scientific review of international published studies of paternal discrepancy found a range in incidence from 0.8% to 30% (median 3.7%), suggesting that the widely quoted and unsubstantiated figure of 10% of non-paternal events is an overestimate. However, in situations where disputed parentage was the reason for the paternity testing, there were higher levels; an incidence of 17% to 33% (median of 26.9%). Most at risk were those born to younger parents, to unmarried couples and those of lower socio-economic status, or from certain cultural groups.

Penalties and prosecutions 

Victims are rarely able to claim compensation in the civil court system, and even in countries where paternity fraud is a criminal offense, action is rarely taken against offenders. In 2008 it emerged that even though the United Kingdom government had exposed 4,854 cases of false paternity claims there had not been a single prosecution for the crime.


Liam Magill

  • Liam Magill was initially awarded compensation for damages, not to be confused with the costs of raising the children, against his ex-wife for pain and suffering as a result of the paternity fraud, but lost upon his ex-wife's appeal to the High Court. The sole issue of this case was civil damages for deceit (not reimbursement of child rearing costs or child financial support paid). 

Jim Knapp AKA Jim "Jones"

  • Jim Knapp AKA Jim "Jones", was found to not have fathered a child for whom he was paying child support after a twelve-year battle in the California court system.

Richard Parker

  • Sixteen months after his divorce, Richard Parker, a Florida resident, discovered via DNA testing that the child he was paying support for was not his. Florida justices ruled 7-0 against him, stating that Parker must continue to pay $1,200 a month in child support, because he had missed the one-year post divorce deadline for filing his lawsuit. His court-ordered payments total $216,000 over the next fifteen years.

 Steve Barreras

  • In New Mexico, Steve Barreras was forced to pay a total of $20,000 for a daughter that never existed. In August 1999, Steve Barreras and Viola Trevino divorced, with Viola later claiming to be pregnant with Steve's child. This was in spite of the fact that Barreras had had a vasectomy in 1998 and claimed that Trevino had had tubal ligation in 1978. Trevino fabricated a daughter named "Stephanie Renee", who Trevino claimed was born on September 3, 1999, and obtained a baptismal certificate, birth certificate, Medicare card and Social Security card for the fictitious girl. In 2002, Trevino was able to persuade a court to order Steve to pay child support for the fabricated daughter by falsifying DNA evidence.

  • When the judge demanded to see Trevino's daughter in December 2004, Trevino went to a local mall, where she persuaded a grandmother and her two-year-old granddaughter that they were "going to go see Santa Claus" but instead went to the courthouse with the child and attempted to pass her off before the judge as her own. Mr. Barreras successfully sued blood laboratory Mobile Blood Services for their role in the DNA hoax. The DNA had come from adult daughter Eve Barreras with help from a lab employee.

  • Viola Trevino was sentenced to sixteen months in a federal prison in Arizona for claiming the non-existent girl on tax returns. Trevino owes the IRS over $2,200 for the fraud and Barreras $26,000 in child support and lawyer's fees. In November 2007, Trevino was supposed to answer state charges including kidnapping, fraud, and perjury, but disappeared. A warrant was issued for Trevino, who could face another forty-five years in prison. She was arrested days later.

  • In August 2008, Trevino pled guilty to thirteen of the twenty-four counts against her. The deal means she could spend twenty-one years in prison. She was sentenced by State District Judge Albert "Pat" Murdoch to twenty-one years in November 2008 on charges of fraud and perjury, with fifteen years suspended, leaving her to serve six years. In January 2009, Trevino's sentence was reduced to four years (time served plus one year), but would serve the suspended fifteen years if she violated probation.

Other cases

  • A South Korean man won compensation for pain and suffering damages of $42,380 when his wife had another man's baby and claimed it was his. Reported June, 2004 in Associated Press, USA.

  • In the UK on April 2007 a stockbroker was awarded £22,400 in damages. The judge, Sir John Blofeld, said he had been unable to accept the evidence of the woman, known only as Ms. B, and said she had made repeated "fraudulent representations" to Mr. A over the child's paternity.

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