Pittsburg Post-Gazette

Senate panel OKs DNA testing for child-support

Wednesday, April 19, 2000
By The Associated Press
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

READING -- A state Senate committee has endorsed a measure to allow DNA testing to determine paternity in child-support cases.

The Senate Judiciary panel approved the bill, which was prompted by the case of Gerald A. Miscovich of Berks County, who challenged state law requiring him to pay child support to his ex-wife for a boy he did not father.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Miscovich first told his story to the Post-Gazette in an article that ran in February 1999.

State Sen. Michael A. O'Pake, D-Reading, minority chairman of the committee, said the bill would bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century.

"The present law in Pennsylvania unfairly forces men who are not fathers to pay child support to their wives," O'Pake said.

Miscovich has been battling for three years to overturn a Pennsylvania law he says disregards scientific advances and discriminates against men.

State law presumes that a child is biologically related to his or her parents if they were married when the child was born. Paternity can only be challenged if the man can prove he is sterile, impotent or was nowhere near his wife when she conceived.

Proponents call current law unfair because it allows unwed mothers to use blood and DNA results to prove paternity, but divorced and married men do not have the same right to disprove it.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the state law and denied Miscovich the opportunity to present DNA results to prove he is not the child's father. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the case.

Miscovich, 35, a computer programmer, calls the law unconstitutional because it requires him to pay $537 in monthly support until the boy, now 11, turns 18. He said he had spent $45,000 to support the child and $60,000 more on legal expenses.

The boy was born in 1987, about a year and a half after Miscovich and his wife married. The couple divorced in 1990.

The boy and his mother, who has since remarried, have moved to Western Pennsylvania.

Miscovich said he was pleased the bill had advanced but disappointed by the one-year age limit that was specified.

"This is a very small step," Miscovich said. "There should no time limit. All the woman has to do now is lie for one year."

He said such a law would not have made a difference in his case because he did not find out that the child was not his until the boy was 4.