Paternity Un(Certainty): How the Law Surrounding Paternity Challenges Negatively Impacts Family Relationships and Women's Sexuality Academic Article uri icon


  • It is popularly believed that false paternity rates are 10-30%, and that thousands of unsuspecting men are supporting children who are not theirs. These reported rates of false paternity have become urban legend, demonizing women as over-sexualized partners who shouldn’t be trusted. This in turn has influenced laws regarding paternity, which have evolved to allow men to dis-establish paternity years after a child’s birth, even when there has been an adjudication or acknowledgment of paternity. This article argues that society should be cautious about elevating science as the highest consideration in truth claims about paternity. It examines the incoherent and inconsistent nature of family law concerning paternity challenges, and it illustrates ways modern cases elide the reasons a woman might keep paternity questions secret — for instance, when women have been subjected to domestic violence or sexual assault. Challenges to paternity involve complex factors which should not be reduced to the results of a DNA test.

author list (cited authors)

  • Ayres, S.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016 11:11 AM