The Australian,February 16, 2011, Patricia Karvelas
A men's rights group has called for mandatory paternity testing of all babies after government figures revealed almost 600 instances of men compelled to financially support children they did not father.
Since changes to child support laws four years ago, there had been 586 cases of men successfully using DNA testing to show they were not biologically related to children they had been financially supporting, the federal government has revealed to The Australian.
In the overwhelming majority of these cases, the courts have not forced mothers to pay back the money they have received.
Of the 586 cases, only 74 mothers have been told to pay back the money. Those reparations total in excess of $533,000.
The figures, from the government's Child Support Agency, prompted Men's Rights Agency director Sue Price to call for mandatory DNA testing at birth.
"Quite a lot of them (the men) don't get their money back," she said. "The mothers aren't working anyway, so there's no way of getting the money back."
The figures are likely to renew a fierce debate over the use of DNA to determine biological parentage after birth.
Sole Parents Union president Kathleen Swinbourne told The Australian that the 2007 law change that led to the explosion in DNA testing was hurting children who were being told their fathers did not want to continue playing the role of parent. She urged uncertain fathers to seek testing during the pregnancy.
"We think there is more to being a father than DNA," she said. "If men are asking for these tests right at the beginning when someone says they are pregnant, that's fine, but if you are doing this when they are already calling you daddy, what effect does that have on the child?
"If you have accepted that you are their father, should you be allowed to turn around and change your mind based on biology?"
She suggested men make inquiries early to ensure children do not become traumatised by the DNA checking process.
"If you're in doubt, check it early," she said. "Take it out on your ex, don't take it out on your children."
Ms Price said she believed that up to 30 per cent of men who had a test found they were not the father.
"I think there should be mandatory testing at birth of every child to stop this happening," she said.
"People have affairs -- that happens -- but it's your obligation to find out who the father is."
A spokesman for Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek said it was important that the children of separated parents were supported, both financially and emotionally.
"The Family Court adjudicates in disputes over who the actual parents are," he said.
"The Child Support Agency simply facilitates payments in the minority of cases where parents can't come to private arrangements."