Brazilian Child Support Fraud

Who pays child support when the two potential fathers are identical twins? With the wisdom of Solomon, a judge recently made a quick decision to avoid a child support fraud case.

Girl from Ipanema

A judge in Brazil was stumped. He had ordered a pair of identical twins to take DNA tests in a paternity case in the central Brazilian state of Goiás. Both father’s came back positive for paternity.

Neither man would admit who fathered the girl at issue. Her mother had turned to the courts seeking financial support for the child, who was born after a casual fling.

The woman said she could not say for sure which of the two men she had slept with.

So, Judge Filipe Luis Peruca opted to punish both twins. In a ruling made public on Monday, he chided the men for acting in “bad faith” and ordered that each pay child support for the girl, who is now 9.

Florida Paternity Tests

The problem of child support fraud is not limited to Brazil. A DNA test can answer almost all questions about paternity, but there is one situation where DNA paternity testing may not give answers: when the two alleged fathers are identical twins.

Identical twins share identical DNA, so a standard DNA test cannot identify which of the twins is truly the biological father of a child.

However, each twin father will have a few mutations in his DNA that are unique to him. A full DNA test will find spots on the DNA that one twin shares with the child but not with the other twin.  With enough of these, the child’s DNA will be a better match to the twin that is her dad.

But Florida’s standard paternity test cannot tell the difference because the test relies only on 15 or so markers for comparison. A more comprehensive test – that looks at billions of markers – will find the unique markers proving which identical twin is the real dad.

Florida Child Support

Establishing paternity is an important first step in before calculating child support. I’ve written about child support issues in Florida before. Calculating child support in Florida used to be entirely at the judge’s discretion, based on a parent’s ability to pay, and the child’s needs.

Florida established child support guidelines which follows the income shares model. The guidelines provide the amount you pay can be adjusted upward or downward after considering relevant factors.

Additionally, the statute authorizes deviations by more than 5 percent, pursuant to a list of 10 enumerated factors, and one equitable factor. Finally, the statue mandates use of a gross-up calculation of support for substantial time-sharing.

In Florida, parents are allowed a gross-up calculation because when exercising substantial time-sharing, they incur their own child care expenses, and may duplicate payment for items already included in their child support.

Without adjustments for substantial time-sharing, parents can be paying twice for a child’s expense, making time-sharing prohibitively expensive. Accordingly, in 2008, the statute was amended to expand the meaning of substantial time-sharing to equalize the child support obligation.

Brazilian Samba or Saga?

The mother, whose name is redacted in court documents, initially sought financial help from just one of the twins, whose identities were also not disclosed.

When a DNA test came back positive, that man denied being the child’s father. The court then ordered that his twin brother undergo a test. When that test also came back positive, neither man would acknowledge being the father.

Judge Peruca, who is based in Cachoeira Alta, a small municipality in an area where cattle farms are the dominant industry, wrote in his decision that the men’s child support fraud was part of a long pattern of deceit.

“It’s evident that the defendants, from adolescence, took advantage — and continue to take advantage! — of the fact that they are identical twins . . . they used each other’s name to attract as many women as possible and hide instances of betrayal in their relationships.”

The judge ordered that the names of both men be added to the child’s birth certificate. He also ordered each man to pay the woman 30 percent of a minimum wage in Brazil, and they must collectively cover 50 percent of the child’s school and medical expenses.

The New York Times article is here.