This case reminds us about the old adage “Maternity is a certainty, paternity is a matter of dispute”.
Paternity fraud fight of husband 'duped for 17 years by wife'
22nd January 2009
A husband was conned for 17 years by his wife into bringing up her lover's child as his own, a court heard yesterday.
Mark Webb only found out the truth from DNA tests conducted after the girl turned 18, it is alleged. He has tried to sue his ex-wife Lydia Chapman for deceiving him over the paternity of her daughter.
In the first 'paternity fraud' case to reach the Appeal Court, Mr Webb said his former wife and her alleged lover conceived the girl at a hotel in 1985.
Mr Webb, 47, claims he was given no reason to believe the girl was not his and she was registered as the couple's child.
He claims that three months after the girl was born, Mrs Chapman and her alleged lover again met at a summer barbecue, where they sneaked away to a nearby picnic area to have sex.
He alleged that they also discussed the baby's paternity and deliberately set out to make Mr Webb believe the girl was his daughter.
Mr Webb claimed that, for years, his wife had continued with the deception, even giving her husband Birthday and Christmas cards from his 'daughter' referring to him as her 'daddy', the court heard.
Mr Webb, from Bournemouth, claimed he financially supported the girl from birth without a penny in maintenance from the 'true father'.
Mrs Chapman, who denies deceiving her ex-husband, allegedly told Mr Webb in 2002 that he was not the girl's father and filed for divorce the following year.
Mr Webb's barrister, Nicholas Mostyn, QC, told the court it was not until 2004 – by which time the girl was 18 – that a DNA test confirmed that he was not the girl's father.
Mr Mostyn argued the case raised 'profound questions' about a spouse's 'duty of candour' to their partner. He told the court: 'Honesty and good faith lie at the very heart of the contract of marriage.'
Describing 45-year-old Mrs Chapman as an 'inveterate liar', he insisted she had 'a fixed and certain knowledge' that Mr Webb was not the girl's father.
Mr Mostyn said Mr Webb's 'sense of injustice' meant he wanted to pursue his case to the House of Lords if necessary, but the Appeal Court judges denied him that opportunity yesterday. They refused him permission to appeal against a Bournemouth County Court judge's dismissal of his damages claim.
Lord Justice Thorpe said the case involved 'interesting socio-legal arguments' but would 'visit upon the litigants huge burdens, both financial and emotional, which are disproportionate to any prospects of success'.
The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Aikens and Mr Justice Bennett, said: 'This whole case can be categorised as a misfortune to all those engaged in it. I would not wish to be the one to extend their misfortunes further.'
At her £250,000 red-brick cottage in Southampton, Mrs Chapman refused to talk about the case last night. Her alleged lover also refused to comment.