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False pregnancy tests could create legal issues for families

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2017 | Family Law

Most pregnancy tests leave little room for doubt that a woman is pregnant. A positive pregnancy test can offer the first confirmation that two lives are about to change forever. The likelihood that a test is a false positive is zero to three percent, but what happens if the test was taken by a person other than the woman claiming it?

A woman in Jacksonville, Fla., who is six months pregnant, was recently found to be selling positive pregnancy tests via Craigslist. Although a positive pregnancy test could be used as a harmless prank, it can also be used to trap men into making custodial or marital arrangements. Surprisingly, selling positive pregnancy tests is not illegal, but it could raise unique issues in family law arrangements.

What happens if a man marries a woman based on the false assumption of pregnancy? Is a man entitled to the return of any money given to defray medical bills or child support? Could claiming a false pregnancy test lead to criminal charges of fraud?

Each of these questions is worth examining when thinking about false pregnancy tests. Although the likelihood someone would use a false pregnancy test to sham another into marriage or child custody payments is slim, a case would provide legal precedent worth examining.

Sham marriage and annulments

A sham marriage is a marriage of convenience used for the purpose of gaining a set of benefits – that is to say, a reason other than romance. Just like selling positive pregnancy tests, a sham marriage is not illegal in the United States unless it is done to commit immigration fraud.

However, if a man were to marry a woman based on the false assumption of pregnancy, the husband could file for an annulment of marriage. An annulment is different than a divorce because an annulment can retroactively void a marriage. That is to say, it never happened. In an annulment, property and assets would not be subject to equitable distribution nor would a judge award alimony to a spouse.

What about money?

If a man were to give money to a woman to pay for the costs of pregnancy (medical bills, home preparation), the man might not be entitled to recoup his money. Colorado does not recognize “heart balm statutes” – this is money or property given to another based on a false condition or marriage or, perhaps, child custody. However, it could qualify as fraud in a civil or criminal court.

Each case is different, and you should speak to a lawyer about your unique family law issue. Sometimes a prank can be in good fun, but no one likes to fall victim to a trick that could lead to future legal consequences.