In my thirty plus years as a family law attorney, I cannot recall a period
of time in which I’ve seen so many stories in the news concerning
high profile paternity cases.
Within recent years, big names like former NBA star Michael Jordan, Senator
John Edwards, Antonio Cromartie of the New York Jets, actor Jude Law,
and the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, have denied accusations
of fathering children with former girlfriends, flings, or mistresses.
Most recently, Simon Cowell has been subject to rumors that he is the
father of his friend’s wife’s baby. There are enough of these
cases to make the mainstream news sound like one long episode of
The Maury Povich Show.
None of these stories ended gracefully, in fact each brought a share of
negative publicity to the fathers in question. How is a male celebrity
supposed to handle a paternity suit? How should be conduct himself?
I present to you a
Gentlemen’s Guide to Navigating a High Profile Paternity Suit
— an open letter and some much needed advice for celebrities who may or may
not be “the father.”
Control Thyself — This is pretty much self-explanatory. Show some
restraint and discretion. This also happens to be the most cost-effective strategy.
Keep it Out of the Press — After all this
is a Gentlemen’s Guide. Whether the child belongs to you or not, think
of his or her well-being. Not all press is good press.
Just Take the Test — There’s no need to prolong the inevitable
with a countersuit or with the filing of an injunction. You are either
the father or you are not. Face your problems head on.
Don’t Slander the Mother in the Press — This goes back to “Keep
it Out of the Press.” Playing a catty game of tug-of-war with the
media is not good for one’s public image and diminishes your reputation.
Confidentiality Agreement — If the child is yours and widespread
news of your fatherhood is career threatening, propose a settlement with
the mother and ask her to sign a confidentiality agreement. You can tie
your level of financial support to the promise of the mother keeping your
paternity a secret.
Paternity lawsuits aren’t only for Hollywood and professional athletes.
I’ve had my own share of clients who work on Wall Street or who
are top-level executives—well-to-do men who have been hit with paternity
suits that threaten the fabric of their family and their livelihood. Sometimes
the suit is warranted and sometimes a woman makes a false accusation to
force some sort of monetary settlement.
In any case, it is important to speak with an attorney or a
mediator. Take the DNA test and handle yourself with poise and dignity.
For any other questions regarding the resolving a paternity lawsuit, please
feel free to call me at (646) 663-4546. I’d be happy to advise you.