Noel says his last encounter with his ex-girlfriend was when his car broke down. He knew the woman lived nearby, so he called her for help. "I ended up sleeping with her. It was just a chance encounter; a five minute deal," he says. "She told me she was taking birth control, and there was no way that she could get pregnant."
Years later, Noel married Nicol and had two children. Then Noel received a court order to be genetically tested to see if he was the father of his ex-girlfriend's child, whom he never knew existed.
"Noel sat me down and said, â€˜I have something devastating to tell you,' and through tears explained to me that his ex-girlfriend was having him paternity tested. Noel really felt blindsided, and he felt trapped," Nicol, Noel's wife, recalls. "I was overwhelmingly shocked. Noel and I could not believe this was happening to us."
"I think I was wronged. I think I got screwed," Noel says. "I was given no choice. I was given no voice. I just don't get it." The results of the DNA test were positive, and Noel was determined to be the father of the now 4-year-old child. He and Nicol pay the mother $350 a month in child support.
"I absolutely don't think that I should have to pay anything," Noel says.
"I should not have to be paying every month to a child and a woman whom I don't know, because she made a choice to have a child," Nicol says. "If a woman chooses to have a child as a single mom, then she needs to be responsible for that choice. When the times get tough, you don't go back and hold somebody else accountable for a choice that she made."
[AD]Nicol and Noel fear for the future. "Does she get to come back and ask for more support? Does she want college tuition? Does he need braces? Are we responsible for all the incidental things that come along as this child gets older?" Nicol asks. "This is a huge black cloud that just hangs over our heads constantly."
"I lead my life right now not knowing where the future is going," Noel says.
Nicol and Noel say the situation is not only causing financial problems, but it's taking an emotional toll on their marriage.
"We absolutely see our family as a family of four. We don't regard the other child. I don't feel responsible for this child at all. I feel Noel was basically a sperm donor to this woman to have a child," Nicol says. "It affected Noel and I as a family unit in so many ways. The tension of that reality really tore us apart, and it really broke up that perfect circle."
[AD]"I had already started a life, by choice, with my wife, and I had already had children, and this just threw a wrench in the whole system," Noel says.
"The conscious choices that we made and the effort that we have put into creating the world that we live has been shaken by the choice of another woman," Nicol says. Through tears, she continues, "When we have to tell our children that they have a half-brother out there " and that's the part that is really shattering " it's going to just really devastate their world."
In studio, Dr. Phil asks Noel, "What is your responsibility to this child?"
"I choose not to participate in this child's life," he says. "I don't know if that's right. I don't know how I'm going to feel down the road."
Turning to Nicol, Dr. Phil says, "You're very adamant about this. You resent having to pay this money. You resent having him have to be even financially involved with this child."
Nicol says, "Everything we chose was a conscious choice, and we created something very valuable, and this incident, this woman who made her choices has come in and crumbled our foundation."
[AD]Mel interjects, "I do not believe DNA is the measure of fatherhood, anymore than if he had become a sperm donor." He explains that it has been decided in court in similar cases. "When fathers who find that a child whom they thought was theirs wasn't, and they seek to be absolved of child support because there's no DNA connection, courts always say, â€˜DNA is not the measure of fatherhood.'"
Gloria says to Noel, "You should not be punishing the child. You are punishing the child because the child is in existence. The child is being punished by not having the love and the support of the child's father."
"We did not choose this woman's child," Nicol says.
Dr. Phil notes that the mother of the child was invited to be on the show. She accepted at first but then changed her mind.
The mother said, "Unless I get paid at least $5,000, I'm not willing to put my life out there."
"Just for the record," Dr. Phil says, "we do not pay our guests to appear on the show."
"She never wanted Noel to have any participation with this child in the first place. She simply wanted the cash, and she made that very clear," Nicol says. Facing Gloria, she says, "She is still enforcing her rights as a woman, and again, you know you're saying this child has a right. You've now bypassed the rights of a man to make any choices of his own."
"He does have a right to visit the child, to participate in the child's life," Gloria says. "Whether or not she wants him to, he could go to court and enforce that right."
[AD]"Suppose it could be proved that the woman in this case defrauded him and tricked him and set him up, and it was all about money, should there be any consequence to the woman for that?" Mel asks Gloria.
"Courts are not going to get into how a child came to be into existence," Gloria says. "The court wants to protect that child and make sure that that child is supported and not left hungry on the street without shoes, without clothing, without care."
"The result is that the courts end up countenancing fraud and rewarding fraud, and that shouldn't be the case," Mel says.