Seeking paternity testing and joint custody

While nothing in the law prohibits it explicitly, I’ve never understood how attorneys can counsel their male clients to demand DNA paternity testing, especially for a child born in their marriage, while seeking joint custody of that child.  I’ve never done it and I don’t see how one can escape the logical conclusion that in seeking DNA testing the father is undermining his joint custody claim.

While mothers obviously know a child is theirs (ignoring those switched-at-birth stories that seem to keep the Lifetime network in business), until there’s DNA testing a father takes paternity on faith.  Most fathers simply accept that a child is theirs and commit to parenting that child.  I have two children, ages nine and seventeen, and if my wife announced tomorrow they weren’t biologically mine they wouldn’t stop being my children.  I would fight any request for paternity testing and, even if testing showed we were not biologically related, I would still treat them as my children.

They would remain my children (in this hypothetical scenario) not because I was biologically related to them but because I had committed to raising them as my children and, after seventeen and nine years of living up to that commitment–of me loving them and of them loving me–I would not let mere (hypothetical) cuckolding change that fact.  Most fathers I know, even those fathers who’ve not had their paternity confirmed by DNA testing, feel the same way.

On the other hand, if some old girlfriend arrived a my doorstep claiming that some (now adult) child was mine, I would demand DNA testing.  Why the distinction between the children I have raised with my wife and a child I might have conceived with an old flame: because I’ve been mentally and emotionally committed to raising my children with my wife since I learned she was pregnant and have no such commitment to a child conceived with an old girlfriend.  If the DNA testing showed this old girlfriend’s child wasn’t mine, I could walk away from a relationship with that child with no guilt or second guessing.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t be seeking joint custody of that child if the DNA testing confirmed paternity.

That’s the thought process which, in my mind, makes seeking paternity testing antithetical to seeking joint custody.  One seeks paternity testing because one is willing to walk away from a child if that child isn’t biologically related–and one shouldn’t seek joint custody of a child one is willing to walk away from.  In this regard women have men at a disadvantage.  As an old Calypso song goes, “mommy’s baby; daddy’s maybe.”  But if daddy takes the position that “baby is maybe,” I don’t see how daddy can justify seeking joint custody.

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