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Roger E Hall Jr.

Delaware State News - House panel approves paternity bill

Delaware State News

DOVER ó The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to release a measure its sponsor has dubbed the Nathaniel Hall Bill.

The legislation, Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 171, sponsored by Sen. Bruce C. Ennis, D-Smyrna, would create provisions to correct certain instances of paternity fraud.

The bill received approval from the state Senate on April 1. With the committeeís action, it now heads to the House for debate.

"Nathaniel is a 9-year-old boy that canít get the medical attention that he needs because the biological father will not cooperate and provide the medical information needed from the father," Sen. Ennis said when the measure passed the Senate.

If enacted, the legislation would create a method in which a person can contest allegations or presumptions of biological parentage under certain circumstances.

"This bill is not about child support; it is about the best interest of the child," Sen. Ennis said Wednesday.

Paternity fraud is what occurs when a mother wrongly identifies a man as the father of her child, as was the case with Nathanielís parents.

When a man is named the father of a child, under the Delaware Uniform Parentage Act, that declaration of paternity can only be challenged within a two-year period.

Nathanialís legal father, Roger Hall, has been working to bring the issue of paternity fraud to light, not just for him, but for the son he thought was his.

Though the child is not his biological son, Delaware courts still maintain that he is.

Mr. Hall discovered to his surprise that Nathaniel was not his biological offspring about three years ago. When he confronted his then ex-wife, Jennifer, she told him the truth. The former couple talked about what they should do, not solely for Mr. Hallís benefit but for their sonís.

Nathaniel is disabled, and knowing his true genetic medical history could aid doctors in his treatment.

"He is autistic and canít tell you how he feels. He canít speak ó that is why having his full genetic information is so important," Mr. Hall said.

The Halls petitioned Family Court to have Mr. Hallís paternity repealed so the court could then compel Nathanielís biological father to release his medical history to help in their sonís treatment.

Because of the two-year statute of limitations for paternity in Delaware law, their petition was denied.

"We are very pleased that the bill is going to move forward so we can help him," Mr. Hall said.

Nathanielís family is eager to see this legislation pass. Since the bill made it through the Senate and has been waiting to be heard by the House Judicial Committee, Nathaniel has had additional medical problems.

"He had to go to the hospital and they had to prescribe antibiotics for him," Mr. Hall said. "Heís never had antibiotics. If there is a family allergy it could kill him. We donít want to roll the dice with him."

Mr. Hall, motivated to action to help Nathaniel and other children that may be in a similar situation, formed the Delaware Citizens Against Paternity Fraud to raise awareness of the issue.

For help, Mr. Hall reached out to the U.S. Citizens Against Paternity Fraud (USCAPF). The organization has been working with state governments across the nation to raise awareness of this issue.

The bill also adds provisions to prevent instances of paternity fraud from occurring in the future. It will require mothers to sign a sworn statement of paternity, under penalty of perjury, when the child is born.

Sen. Ennis said the bill was drafted with help from the Family Court.

The General Assemblyís Family Law Commission unanimously supported the bill at its meeting in March.

"All I know is that Nathaniel needs help and we have to get this moving for him," Mr. Hall said.

Delaware Paternity Bill

Bill 171


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