Parent Trap: Carnell

Parent Trap: Carnell

"Paternity fraud is a big problem. It has already happened to over one million men," says Carnell Smith.

"In my case of paternity fraud, my ex-girlfriend called me one day and told me she was pregnant. I told her, ‘Congratulations. I hope you and your baby's daddy will be very happy.' But then she says, ‘But you're the father.'" Carnell paid child support for 11 years before he found out he was not the biological father. "I was cuckolded," he explains. "Cuckolded is the term that a cuckoo bird lays its egg in another bird's nest and lets another bird raise its young."

 

Carnell had two DNA tests performed. "Once I found out that the child wasn't mine, I contacted my lawyer," he says. "When I went to court, I felt that a

t that point I should be able to win my case with two DNA tests. I didn't lie here. We can prove I didn't lie, and we can prove who did." He says that his ex-girlfriend asked the court to put him in jail and pay the money he hadn't paid. "That infuriated me," he recalls. "The judge says it's my fault that I didn't find out sooner. It's pay or go to jail. That was a bit hard to take."

 

Carnell took the decision to the Georgia court of appeals. "They refused to let me appeal it," he says. "I refer to paternity fraud as the perfect crime,

because the victim gets blamed for the conduct of the other party."

 

Carnell continues to fight for men's rights. "I was very effective in advocating a position for Georgia paternity fraud victims. I ended up getting a bill that frees men who have been falsely accused of a pregnancy they didn't commit," he shares. "My tag line is, if the genes don't fit, you must acquit."

Dr. Phil is joined onstage by Carnell and feminist attorney Gloria Allred, who has represented many high-profile clients, including Amber Frey during the Scott Peterson murder trial. Addressing Carnell, he says, "You don't think a man should pay for another man's child."

 

"Absolutely," he says.

"What do you think about the fact if he's been a parent to that child for 10 years?" Dr. Phil asks.

"It's obvious that the man loves the child," he says. "What is wrong with allowing the man to have a voluntary relationship with the child without a court order?"

"I don't see this as about mothers' rights or about fathers' rights. This is about the child," Gloria says. "Selina had an emotional bond with her father, and how dare he take her into the park and tell her a life-changing story that he told her there?" She suggests that Enrique should have told Selina in a more age-appropriate way and reassured her that he would continue the bond that he had with her. "But instead, he has hurt her in a way that she will never forget."

 

"Her mother started this whole mess," Carnell interjects. "She was woman enough to have an affair. She should be woman enough to own up to her own responsibility."

 

"What about his owning up to responsibility?" Gloria asks. "Why all this talk about money when the most important harm has been to this child who is hurt."

Mia asks, "She knew all along this was not Enrique's child. Why didn't she tell the truth from the beginning?"

Gloria responds. "I think this finger-pointing blame game is not really helpful to the child, and that's what I think is important: the best interest of the child," she says. "You now have a child in existence who is 13 years old. She has her life ahead of her. How her mother, and yes, the person she considered to be her father, treat her are going to matter in her life in a much more significant way than whether her father pays child support or doesn't."

"You're a hired gun, and you can recite the letter of the law, but you can't tell us how emotionally devastating this has been for all of us," Mia says in a raised voice.

"It hurts the child in ways that are far more significant than it hurts adults," Gloria says. "He is a person with medical training. He should know better."

"He's supposed to know she's lying just because he has an M.D.?" Carnell asks Gloria.

Dr. Phil cuts the fighting and says, "There is an argument that I think [Carnell's] making that says it's odd that DNA can get a wrongly incarcerated man off of death row, but not out of child support."

Dr. Phil introduces Los Angeles attorney Marc Angelucci, who has represented and won cases for victims of paternity fraud. "Don't statutes of limitations usually run based on from when you knew or should have known a piece of information?" he asks both attorneys.

 

"That's right," Marc says.


"It generally is the case," Gloria says. "But I think the public policy of this state and of many states in this country is crafted in a way to also protect the child and to protect the public policy of the state." She explains that a father should take a paternity test within the first two years if he's not sure.

 

"How's he going to take responsibility when he didn't even know the woman was cheating on him?" Carnell asks her. "Where is she responsible for her conduct?"

"This is rare in this country," Gloria says.

"Paternity fraud is not rare," Carnell disagrees. "One out of three men who get tested turn out to not be the father."



"I think it is unfair to say that this mother perpetrated any kind of fraud. She may have made a mistake," Gloria says. "The real problem in this country is something totally different. It's millions of fathers avoiding and evading their responsibility to pay their court-ordered child support in this country to the children who are theirs and forcing mothers onto welfare."

 

Marc adds his thought. "Thirty percent of DNA tests are coming out negative, and that's out of over 300,000 tests done throughout the nation every year. That means hundreds of thousands of men are being misidentified as the father of the child every year."

 

At the end of the show, Dr. Phil concludes, "Child comes first, money comes second. There's just no other way around it."