People will do almost anything to make a buck.

According to the Albany Herald, a 38-year-old Moultrie woman has been arrested for scamming a man into paying her child support for a little girl that didn't belong to him.

The woman reportedly had convinced her ex-boyfriend to pay over $1,600 in child support payments over a two year period for a child belonging to her friend. During the week, while the little girl's real mother was attending school in another town, the woman-who was the child's godmother-would take her to what the ex-boyfriend thought was his visitation. The mother reportedly had no clue the scam was going on.

The scam went undetected until the child began to speak, and to tell the woman's ex-boyfriend that he was not her father. Apparently this made the woman a little nervous. When she stopped bringing the little girl for visits, the man petitioned a court to protect his visitation rights. During a hearing on the matter the Moultrie woman denied that she knew of the girl. But when local television stations began making pictures of the child public, police received phone calls identifying her.

The Moultrie woman is now being charged with five counts of theft by deception. She may also be charged with perjury for denying she knew the girl in court.

An interesting question raised by this story is the issue of establishing paternity. Why didn't the ex-boyfriend in this case ensure that the child he was paying to support was truly his own?

According to the Georgia Department of Human Services, setting up child support is a four step process. First a case has to opened. Then the non-custodial parent has to be located. But before a court can file a support order, it must establish a legal father. If the biological father was not married to the mother at the time of the child's birth, legal fatherhood can be established by court order or administratively. Otherwise it is presumed. If a man isn't willing to admit paternity, testing will proceed.

Perhaps the ex-boyfriend in this case had no reason to distrust his ex-girlfriend. Perhaps it wasn't very difficult for him to make the payments anyway. In many cases, support payments go unpaid because of financial constraints. Even after a court orders child support, a man may doubt the validity of a paternity test which, while 99% accurate, leaves at least some room for error.

In any case, it is unfortunate that someone willing to support his child was defrauded in this way.

Source: The Albany Herald, "Child support fraud reported," Terry Lewis, 7 Jan 2011.