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Battered women “Waiting for asylum” [ NLJ, March 13] brings to light the plight of battered and abused women and children around the globe; the fact is, we have millions of battered and abused women in this country who have little if any recourse for asylum from their daily horrors. There are “women’s shelters,” which are only a temporary fix for the women and families that have left their homes looking for asylum elsewhere. If we cannot care for the abused in our own country, how are we going to care for the abused of the world? This is not the answer for those “waiting for asylum.” This country is already overly taxed, figuratively and financially, due to things like the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters. If we pass laws to allow for asylum of a “group” made up of battered and abused women and children, we will have a major portion of the world’s population living in this country. What would be the criteria for asylum? The article states: “Her client never sought police protection, there were no hospital records.” How do you prove a case without evidence? Saving a hundred or even a thousand women and/or children from abuse does not even address the tip of the iceberg. We should not be passing laws that will have consequences only for a rare few, and will overly burden a welfare system that is already out of control. It is time to pass laws that will affect the governments and economies of countries that look the other way when it comes to the abuse and persecution of women and children. Wouldn’t it be more productive and profound to be advocates for laws that punish governments and societies that look the other way while knowing all along the atrocities that are being committed daily to its women and children? Attorneys and human rights activists should put their energies into pushing for laws that will help all of the oppressed and abused, not a select handful. Suzan Dolfi Pittsburgh Paternity fraud Your recent article, “Parent Trap? Litigation Explodes Over Paternity Fraud” [ NLJ, April 3], correctly observes that “paternity fraud is rampant in the United States” and that legislators and judges are now more often helping men harmed by the “trickery” of women whereby the men were earlier deemed legal fathers to children with whom they had no genetic ties. The article properly recognizes that such nonbiological fathers may, but need not, be married to the tricksters. And the article (albeit briefly) recognizes that such trickery can be “unsettling for children who may discover the false nature of their paternity.” Unfortunately, it discusses neither the “rampant” fraud now occurring outside of paternity cases and marital paternity presumptions nor other significant tricksters or victims of paternity fraud. For fraud outside lawsuits and marriages, consider voluntary paternity acknowledgments completed by unwed mothers and alleged biological fathers in hospitals at the time of birth. Such acknowledgments are needed before men can be listed on birth certificates. They were prompted by federal welfare laws in the mid-1990s, when the number of births to unwed mothers was climbing dramatically. Today, there are about 1.5 million births each year in the United States to unwed mothers, accounting for more than one-third of all births. Too often, without genetic testing, men sign acknowledgments in hospitals believing, incorrectly, they are genetically tied. After 60 days, recessions by tricked men are difficult, though the required standards of proof are fraud, duress or material mistake of fact. It is hard to allow men to escape child support, even with fraud, if innocent children will suffer. Erroneous paternity acknowledgments, of course, not only can reflect that certain men are tricked into fatherhood, but also that other men (e.g., with the real genetic ties) are tricked out of fatherhood. Further, the fraud or mistakes of the acknowledging “parents” about blood ties can significantly harm the families of acknowledged parents. Thus, grandpa today, not grandpa tomorrow. Rather than focus only on the appropriateness of civil suits, or even criminal sanctions, we should also focus on prebirth, at birth and afterbirth education about the legal consequences of paternity allegations, acknowledgments and lawsuit concessions. Too few unwed couples (and their families) understand, as they await birth, that male blood ties do not necessarily mean there are legal ties and that the absence of male blood ties does not ensure there no are legal ties. Better understanding of prevailing laws should promote fewer cases wherein the interests of women, men and children are so difficult to balance. Doctors, hospitals and paternity courts could be prompted to instruct better on the complexities of state paternity laws. Incidentally, while paternity fraud is rampant, so is lost paternity. Of the 1.5 million children born to unwed mothers in the United States each year, about one-third have no designated legal father at the time of birth because there are neither voluntary acknowledgments nor lawsuits. When paternity is designated later, too often it comes long after birth and is prompted chiefly by the government desire for reimbursement of child support already paid. Jeffrey A. Parness DeKalb, Ill. The writer is a professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law.

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