From Child Support CommuniQue: The Legal Landscape of Paternity Determination

With the Supreme Court still undecided on issues including Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), we would like to share a timely article from the June 2013 Child Support CommuniQue

Determining parentage used to be straightforward – biologically and legally. A man impregnated a woman through sexual intercourse. If the woman was married, her husband was the father of any child born. A rebuttal to this conclusive marital “presumption” arose only later once the law allowed a cuckolded husband to prove he was “across the seas” making his parentage an impossibility.

A child born outside a marriage was a child of no one. To the extent anyone provided for the child, it was by the church or state. The Elizabethan Poor Laws brought a “Bastardy” statute, which permitted justices of the peace both to punish the mother and father and to provide financial maintenance to relieve the public of the cost of the child’s care. Criminal or quasi-criminal remedies followed – much later.

Skipping interesting but only nuanced changes between the 16th and 20th centuries (and moving to the U.S.), biology still limited the way humans procreate. However, 1935 brought Title IV of the Social Security Act, known then as Aid to Dependent Children (ADC). The legislation provided aid to needy children under the age of 16 who had been “deprived of parental support or care by reason of death, continued absence from the home, or physical or mental incapacity of a parent…” Originally aimed at widows and orphans, as divorce rates and births outside of marriage rose, ADC began to tilt toward divorced, separated, or unwed single mothers. Fifteen years later, ADC added “caretaker grants” and the first national child support enforcement program, focused on welfare reimbursement. A quarter century later, Part D was added to Title IV of the Social Security Act establishing the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and the national/state/local IV-D program we know today.

Read the full article

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