A Western Australian father has shared the devastating moment when he learned he was not biologically related to his 20-year-old son two years after his death.
Around 23 years ago, Mick Reynolds became a dad after a woman he was seeing, Melissa Hernaman fell pregnant.
During this time he shared custody of Lochie, lived with Ms Hernaman until Lochie was seven and contributed to expenses and paid $400 a week in child support until the child turned 18.
Now 43, Mr Reynolds told A Current Affair he paid Ms Hernaman just under $110,000, something he says he had “no worries” doing.
The truth was revealed two years after Lochie’s death. In April 2019, the fit and healthy 20-year-old suddenly collapsed and died during football training. A letter from the coroner declared his death as “unascertainable.”
A post-mortem examination also ruled his death as “indefinitive,” 7 News reports.
After investigations into whether Mr Reynolds or Ms Hernaman carried the gene which could have led to Lochie’s sudden death, alarm bells began ringing after it was confirmed that neither of them did.
“She just went all quiet … and then on the phone … hung up pretty quick,” said Mr Reynolds.
“I felt angry. I felt connected.”
The answer to Lochie’s paternity finally came in a series of texts sent by Ms Hernaman.
“There was one other person, one time, one only,” it read.
“Yes, you could have the test and we find that you are not the biological father, but you are and always will be his Dad.
“I know I should have said something at the time, but I know I made a mistake and I knew you were going to be a good dad.”
Speaking to A Current Affair, Mr Reynolds liked the experience of losing someone twice.
“It’s bad enough to lose someone once let alone twice,” he said.
“I don’t know how many people in this world have gone through this but how do you lose someone twice?”
Although Mr Reynolds said Lochie didn’t bear much physical resemblance to himself, especially when compared to his other son Rory, the pair shared a loving bond and he believed Ms Hernaman’s words.
After the truth came out, Mr Reynolds asked Ms Hernaman to return the money “on principle,” however she reacted by saying that he “should have paid more”.
“I couldn’t care if it was $5 or five million, someone took from me that shouldn’t have,” he said.
“There was no compassion, there was no apology.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Ms Hernaman said the A Current Affair was “very one-sided” and contained “many facts” but also “many lies”.
Ms Hernaman did not directly answer questions about what particular lies were broadcast, the DNA test, the confession text and if she had always known who was the father.
However, Mr Reynolds’ says his case also highlights the issue of paternity fraud and the lack of emotional and financial support for victims.
In Australia, issues with paternity are dealt with outside the family court, however a court-ordered paternity test can be issued if there is reasonable doubt about a child’s paternity.
Issues surrounding damages over child support payments can also be heard in a civil court. Reflecting on a 2006 High Court case involving two instances of paternity fraud, Pannu Lawyers said it “is highly unlikely a person attempting to claim damages under the tort of deceit and misrepresentation for paternity fraud will succeed in court”.
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