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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Concealment of paternity 4: Amityville Horror director sues ex-wife after she duped him into believing daughter was his for 17 years

Amityville Horror director sues ex-wife after she duped him into believing daughter was his for 17 years

16th September 2010

A filmaker is suing his ex-wife for allegedly duping him into believing for 17 years that a child was his daughter.
Andrew Douglas, who directed the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror, is demanding back hundreds of thousands of pounds in child support.
He says Ameena Meer asked him to marry her after claiming she was having his baby. But the real father, according to the lawsuit, was another Briton she had been cheating on him with.
Law suit: Andrew Douglas is suing  his ex-wife Ameena Meer for allegedly duping him into believing for 17 years that a child was his daughter

Mr Douglas, who began his career in Lord Snowdon’s photographic studio, says in the lawsuit that he met Miss Meer in London in 1989.
She had commissioned him to take photographs of Salman Rushdie for a magazine interview she had organised with the writer.
Over the next three years the couple ‘had infrequent sexual relations’ when they met up in London, according to papers filed at Manhattan Supreme Court.

Once pregnant, Miss Meer said she didn’t want a baby born out of wedlock because ‘it would cause great shame and disgrace to her parents, who were practising Muslims’. 

The writer moved to London and married Mr Douglas in August 1992. But the couple split months after Sasha Douglas was born and Miss Meer took their daughter back to her New York home.
In the court documents, Mr Douglas says he had little contact with Sasha until her tenth birthday and felt depressed about failing as a father.

Miss Meer, who has had two more daughters with her second husband, allegedly told the director that ‘a price tag was attached’ if he wanted to play any part in the girl’s life. 
Dispute: Novelist Ameena Meer said she had never knowingly lied to her former husband

He said he paid nearly £450,000 in child support and tuition fees, gave Miss Meer £17,000 when she fell behind with her rent and handed out a further £6,500 for a new bathroom. 

Mr Douglas began his career in 1975 as an assistant to photographer Lord Snowdon (pictured)

Mr Douglas’s relationship with Sasha is said to have improved after he moved to California but he said he became suspicious last summer when she asked him about his blood type. 

Tests showed it was incompatible with the 17-year-old’s. Miss Meer allegedly brushed off his concerns, telling him in a telephone call last September:

‘If you’re not Sasha’s father, it must be immaculate conception.’ A DNA test taken later that month revealed that it was virtually impossible for Mr Douglas to have been the father.

‘The probability of paternity is zero per cent,’ the genetic report concluded, said the suit.

The court file says the biological parent is ‘a British man who, unbeknownst to plaintiff at the time, was involved in a sexual relationship’ with Miss Meer.

The real father refused to marry her and so ‘knowingly and with malice’ she told Mr Douglas the baby was his. 

The legal papers say Mr Douglas still loves the girl he believed to be his daughter, but wants his former wife to pay back the child support and pay compensation for emotional damages.

A friend of the filmmaker told the New York Post that Mr Douglas was ‘a stand-up guy’ who ‘took Ameena at her word 17 years ago’.

A DNA test taken later apparently revealed the probability of paternity was '0 per cent'. Andrew Douglas (left) is now attempting to recover the money be paid in child support

He said Miss Meer has now banned Mr Douglas from seeing Sasha. Miss Meer told the newspaper that she had never knowingly lied to her ex-husband.

‘Of course I didn’t lie. I obviously didn’t think that he wasn’t her father,’ she said. ‘If he wants to be her father, he should provide for her. Isn’t that what’s fair?’

She said the lawsuit was ‘a terrible thing for him to do to his daughter’.

After working for Lord Snowdon, Mr Douglas became a magazine photographer for Esquire and The Face and then a director of music videos and commercials before going into movie-making.

Ameena Meer is recovering from uterine cancer, and is prominent Ground Zero mosque supporter.
So far, the only information in the press comes from the allegations of his lawsuit which of course are slanted in his favor. But among other things, it tells us that, when Douglas confronted Meer with the fact that the girl is not his, she sarcastically replied that she must be the product of an “immaculate conception.”

Since then, apparently, she’s backed off that patently false narrative of events. It seems that, back in 1992, she tried to get the actual dad to marry her and he refused, so she went to Plan B which was Douglas who made the mistake of believing her.

According to a friend of Douglas, Meer has cut off all contact between him and the girl, and, into the bargain has increased her demands for money including $27,000 for back rent and $9,000 to pay for her kitchen remodeling project.

Asked about whether she’d intentionally lied to Douglas about the girl’s parentage, she said, “Of course I didn’t lie . . . I obviously didn’t think that he wasn’t her father,” Meer said.

That brings up an interesting point - one that’s plainly lost on Meer, and one that we see pretty often when the subject is paternity fraud. What is true is that Meer didn’t know who the father of her child was. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, it may be acceptable that she thought Douglas was the dad. But that doesn’t mean that it was OK for her to tell Douglas that the child was his without mentioning the other man.

Morally, she was obligated to tell him the truth - that she’d had sex with him and another man near the time of conception, so he might be the dad or the other guy might be. This was 1992; DNA testing was available, so they could have sorted out paternity at the time. But Ameena Meer wasn’t interested in finding the correct dad; she was interested in finding a man who was willing to be involved and above all, to pay. Knowledge is power, so she used hers to decide for herself, by herself, who would play the role of father.

It was her moral obligation to tell the whole truth to both men, but it was not her legal obligation. To current knowledge, there is in fact no law anywhere that requires a woman to tell a man about his child, or to tell the correct man or to tell all possible men. Indeed, many states in USA put the onus on the man to figure out that he’s not the father rather than on the woman who, after all, is the one with the information required to ascertain the truth.

And that would seem to be a problem for Andrew Douglas and his quest to get repaid. In order to successfully pursue a civil action, he’ll have to prove that Meer committed a legal wrong and, as far as I know, lying to a man about paternity doesn’t qualify. Again, if someone has contrary information, please let me know.

The legal theory Douglas might be relying on is some version of intentional infliction of emotional distress, which may or may not fly. It’s true that she intentionally withheld the information about the other potential father, but if there was no obligation on her part to disclose it, he may be out of luck. Presumably his attorney has covered those bases.

Well, that’s one way of putting it. Another is that lying to Douglas was “a terrible thing to do to him, the actual father and her daughter.” So far Meer shows no indication that she grasps that simplest of concepts.

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