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Court rules family can withhold secret about teen's real father

In the realm of paternity cases, bizarre things occasionally happen. Lawsuits often stem from mothers demanding child support from men who deny they're the father, but sometimes it's the man who demands fathers' rights.

Take the case of a suburban Chicago family who's been hiding the truth from a boy about his biological father. The story started two decades ago, when the boy's mother had a five-year affair with a married man. It ended two years after their son was born. When the boy was around 3, the mother told her husband about the affair. Two months later, the boy's biological father filed a paternity case seeking visitation. The woman and her husband decided to adopt the boy, but a judge put a hold on their case pending the resolution of the paternity case.

Although a DNA test confirmed that the boy was the son of the man with whom his mother had the affair, last month an appeals court upheld a judge's earlier decision to deny visitation rights to the man on the grounds that learning the truth about who his father was would "seriously endanger" the boy, who's now almost 16.

Both parties were barred years ago from discussing the case, but that protection is scheduled to end when the boy turns 18. The boy's mother is still deeply concerned about the impact it will have on her family. At a hearing in 2010, she said the truth will be the "most traumatic experience for (my son) so far in his life."

That hearing included an awkward cross-examination. The boy's biological father, who is an attorney, cross-examined the woman's husband on the witness stand, asking him whether he was perpetrating a lie by withholding the truth. The husband responded that it was his responsibility to filter out information his son wasn't mature enough to handle.

It's an odd case, but an understandably tough one. It's natural for the biological father to want to see his son and openly share a bond with him. But the news may indeed cause a great amount of stress for the boy and his family, including the husband who had no say in his wife's long-ago affair.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "In paternity dispute, family can withhold biological father's identity from teen, court rules," Steve Schmadeke, Jan. 2, 2012

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