So often we hear of situations where a man refuses to take a paternity test because he doesn’t want the responsibility of being a father.
But in one dad’s case, he refused a test for fear of losing custody of the son he’d raised for six years.
Redditor “Mission_Climate_8891” shared his situation on the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit, wondering if he was in the wrong for refusing to take the test.
The Original Poster (OP) asked the subReddit:
“AITA for not getting my son’s paternity tested?”
The OP explained the marriage ended four years ago, when he raised his son alone.
“My ex wife and I divorced about four years ago, as she was dealing with substance abuse and putting our children in danger.”
“I have sole custody of all three of our kids, as I make much more than she does, and she was unsure of her housing situation immediately following the divorce and was dealing with substance abuse issues.”
“The two oldest were then teen girls who didn’t really want much to do with her anymore. My youngest, my son, is now 6, and he would occasionally see her when the divorce first occurred.”
“Ex does not pay court ordered child support, and has since moved several states away. She still occasionally video chats with my son, but it seemed he’d gotten used to not having her in his life.”
The ex-wife recently surprised the OP with her new plans.
“However, recently, she told me she would like to pursue custody of my son.”
“Apparently the person she moved in with is the real father, and she claims my son should be with his ‘real’ parents.”
“I was stunned initially. I never thought it was possible I had raised someone else’s child.”
“Ex is insisting I take a paternity test, but I refuse.”
“And the more I think about it, the more I realize how much I love my son. In my eyes, he is mine.”
“I cried when I first held him, I raised him, I fed him, changed him, washed him, cheered when he learned how to crawl, taught him how to ride a bike. He is my son in every way whether or not a paternity test says so.”
The OP has since threatened to sue in the hopes that it would encourage the ex-wife to back off.
“I told her that I would sue her for all the unpaid child support, as well as emotional damage and medical expenses I paid for her that I know she can’t afford to pay back if she tried to pursue custody.”
“Furthermore, she has been largely out of my son’s life for four years, and the other man has never been in his life.”
“I can’t imagine the kind of damage it can do to him to uproot him from his sisters and me to send him to live with virtual strangers, including a woman who had such severe substance abuse issues she was using even while pregnant.”
When she made a surprise appearance, the OP attempted to cut off all contact.
“Ex randomly showed up to my house one day, telling me she was clean and that her son should be with his mother and ‘real’ father. I threatened to call the cops until she left.”
“I’ve since blocked her from all my contacts and warned the rest of my family that she may try to get to my son through them.”
“Her partner recently called me and begged me to see his side, that he needed to know if he had a son that he never got to meet and that it was the right thing for me to take a paternity test. I blocked him as well.”
“I have been talking to a lawyer ever since.”
The family is divided on what the OP should do.
“Part of my family is conflicted and thinks I should get the test just to know for sure.”
“I’m on the birth certificate, and according to my lawyer, at the moment they do not have a strong case for custody.”
“It’s been about two months since I heard from ex or her partner. They have not yet pursued anything but I am ready to fight for my son in case they do.”
“AITA for refusing to get his paternity tested?”
Fellow Redditors wrote in, rating the OP’s decision on the following scale:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some Redditors urged the OP to start the conversation with his son now while he’s young, and potentially find him a family therapist.
“It’s best for your son to know the truth now. Legally, it sounds like you’re pretty secure to retain custody even if you aren’t the bio parent.”
“You’ve been his legal parent since birth, you all live together with his sisters, and clearly the mom isn’t serious about getting custody anyway. You could get a private DNA test done and not tell a lawyer or your ex, just do it so you know the truth for your son’s sake.” – QueenAndreaa
“I think there’s a good compromise where OP refuses to get a paternity test for now, but doesn’t keep it a huge secret from his son. Explain it in age appropriate ways as he grows up including the fact that OP is absolutely his dad anyway, and then his son can choose to get a paternity or DNA test for the medical information when he’s older if he wants to.”
“And yeah I agree that the first conversation doesn’t need to happen yet, but it should definitely be something he knows before, like, turning 18 or whatever. But I’d be as wary as you about giving them anything they could use even if their chances are slim, so for sure no actual test until his son’s a lot older.” – hexebear
“Adoptee checking in, since my experience might be relevant to your situation. You are making his safety your first priority, which is the right move.”
“I would strongly suggest finding an age-appropriate way to prepare him for this situation, so he isn’t blindsided when he’s older. My parents used to tell me that I had more family out there, but we can’t see them yet.”
“They said nothing negative about my bio-parents. Just that they were not able to be parents when I was born.”
“There was no negativity, pressure, or secrecy about it, so I have no issue with the way my parents handled it. As your son gets older, he may ask your daughters about their mom.”
“I would suggest talking to them about this too. I would suggest telling them that they should tell him the truth if he asks questions, but not try to pressure him one way or the other.”
“Even if you do get the paternity test one day- you’re his dad no matter what it says. You’re his dad because you chose to be, every time you’ve cared for him.” – TheOtherZebra
“Right now you have son in custody. You are his dad. But part of being his dad is to prepare him for whatever life throws his way. Don’t wait until he’s 18 or significantly older than now to deal with this.”
“He is young but he needs to grow up with the knowledge that he is your son but may not be your biological son. (And you should get a paternity test for his sake.)”
“And even if the paternity test says that you are the biological father, he needs to have this information so that if/when he does talk to his mother, he will be fully aware of the allegation. (That can be a conversation when he is older though.)”
“Don’t let your anger at your ex cause damage to the bond you have already formed with your son.” – Llyndreth
“I cannot stress enough how much a good children’s therapist can be – not only for a child’s well being, but also in court. This is a professional that can speak not only to the child’s best interest, but to the benefits and strengths of the relationship between a child and an adult.”
“And at the end of the day, if you gave a good children’s therapist, you will know that there is at least one person besides you in your child’s corner.” – ArtOfOdd
Others warned the OP to protect his son against surprise appearances by his mother.
“I think you should start talking to a therapist about how to broach this situation. Your son needs to be prepared for any allegations his mother makes.” – redrosebeetle
“I generally always agree with being honest with children and not putting off revealing major secrets / info ‘until they’re an adult’ but I think there’s a major difference in this specific case:”
“ex wants a paternity test SPECIFICALLY to prove OP isn’t the child’s biological father, that her partner is, and to get custody of the child”
“I honestly don’t know how much it would actually go toward them getting custody if the paternity test came back that OP isn’t the father, but that’s not a risk I would be willing to take. At. All.”
“definitely not in this situation with a mother who used drugs while pregnant, continued using drugs, has not had any significant contact with the child for years, and wants to take the child away from his actual care-giver parent and siblings to put him in a house with herself (addict [only maybe recovered/ing?], abandoned him) and an actual complete stranger.”
“that’s a huge safety risk for the child, not just that the mother may not be a fit care-taker, but also putting him in a living situation with a male stranger”
“I’d definitely put the child’s literal life and safety above ~knowledge~ this one time. I think the OP could possibly have an age-appropriate conversation with him when he’s a pre-teen or teenager explaining that his mother wasn’t sure which man was his father, but listed OP as the father on the birth certificate at the time, OP raised him his whole life and sees him as his own son, and specifically didn’t get a paternity test (yet) because he was worried the mother might try to get full custody” – Arthur_Of_Camelot
“NTA. You’re a parent protecting their child. This would be traumatizing for them. I would also advise the school to be on the look out. Tell him when he’s older if you want.”
“However a parent isn’t necessarily biological, it’s who loves and raises the child. You love him. He loves you. You take care of his needs and wants and ensure he becomes a decent member of society, you’re the parent.” – DragonsLoveBoxes
A few simply wrote in to confirm the OP was right for putting his son’s safety and stability first.
“Thank you. I am not a lawyer, but I AM a social worker, and having him leave would be a traumatic event for him and for his siblings as well. You’re NTA ever for protecting your children from experiencing trauma.” – LadySilverdragon
“NTA You need to do what is best for your son, and that means not endangering his living situation. However, when it is legally safe to do so, you should find out, because he will need to know his accurate medical history for his own best interest.”
“Also, if it can be safe to do so, I think he should be able to have contact with the person who may be his bio-dad, if he wants to and if it can be done legally safely. As your son gets older and older, you should give him more say in the matter. But right now he’s so young that the most important thing is keeping him safe.” – squitten
“You have a beautiful stable relationship with your son, that he definitely won’t get from any other parent/s in his life. Continue being the best parent he will ever have, and if either of you have any doubts or questions once he’s past 18, that’s the time for you to consider a paternity test.”
“But this issue is between you and your son, not anyone else’s concern. Pursuing this now will only cause heartbreak for a 6yo boy.”
“NTA” – DrunkOnRedCordial
The situation feels like it could easily devolve into something much worse, depending on how the ex-wife and new boyfriend choose to move forward.
Fortunately, with the help of a lawyer and the most thoughtful responses on the subReddit, the father should be able to move forward in providing a safe and stable home for his son.