Q: I DON’T know where to start. I have been with my man for two years now and we have a son who is one-year-old. We come across as a perfect family but it’s all a lie. I cheated on my man and fell pregnant. In order not to jeopardise my relationship, I decided to lie about the paternity of the child. This worked out perfectly well because the real father of my child was denying paternity anyway. He recently called me to say that he would like a relationship with his son but I’m afraid the damage is already done. Do I save my relationship and ignore this man or do I tell the truth and suffer the consequences? - WORRIED LOVER
A: THE truth is, there’s an untold number of men that are unknowingly raising children who aren’t their own biologically. A woman falls pregnant and is either unsure of who the father is, or as is often the case, she knows who the father is but prefers a different man to father her child. This is called paternity fraud.
The thing is, whether you’re married and trying to conceal an affair, or you consider your current boyfriend as more reliable to father your child, consciously deciding to lie about your child’s paternity can have a devastating impact on all involved after some time. Years may pass, but when the truth comes out, as it often does, the consequences are life-changing. Everyone involved will suffer the emotionally devastating impact, which may well be accompanied by equally devastating legal and financial consequences. More directly, the child will suffer, and so will both men. And believe it or not, both the false father and biological father as well as the child could have legal claims against you at a later stage.
¦ The child
Your child will suffer the untold pain of re-orienting his relationship with a man he was raised to believe is his father once the truth comes out. Children, you always have to keep in mind, build their entire lives around and are totally reliant on the information given to them by their parents as they grow. Their entire security, identity, self-confidence and self-worth stands on the shoulders of those that play the parental role in their lives on a day-to-day basis. And they trust everything they are given by those playing mom and dad in their lives. Pulling the carpet about who the real father is, is tantamount to erasing that trust, identity and all the security they’ve built around a life they thought they had – but later found out was all a farce. In your case, your son is still a year old. Perhaps the devastation on him won’t be as much, if you decide to come out now with the truth.
¦ False father
Your current boyfriend deserves to know the truth. Sure, you have no control over how he will deal with the whole soapie, but it’s his right to know. He’ll be disappointed, angry and may even never want to have anything to do with you, but he has to know the truth and it must preferably be initiated by you. You’ll have to press through the guilt, shame and embarrassment, but you’ll be doing the right thing. You cannot cage someone in the name of love, especially through lies, deceit and a potential criminal act. Lay it all out for him, give him the right to respond anyway he chooses, and deal with the aftermath.
¦ Biological father
It’s disappointing that the biological father first denied the paternity of the child, and you have every right to hold him accountable for that action in order for him to square up with you. However, it’s great that he wants to step up, and take responsibility for his child. He not only has a legal duty to do so, it’s also his right to have a relationship with his biological child irrespective of your relationship status. He may have acted like a jerk initially by running away from his responsibility, but you owe it to your child and the false father to reveal the truth. If you don’t do so now, not only is the child growing up, but your current man is forming a stronger bond with the child as his own every day. In addition, you may have the whole situation blown up on your face by the biological father who may be impatient with the whole situation and act insensitively and in a manner that’s out of your control. After all, unlike you and the false father, he really doesn’t have much to lose in all this.