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As genetic testing pins down paternity issues, the definition of fatherhood gets murkier.

Mazurek points out that the two facets of being a legal dad -- being a meaningful parent and paying the bills -- are not necessarily linked. Moreover, he contends that with the formulas commonly used to calculate child-support payments, Anne could probably get more money from her daughter's biological father than from Ron. So why not dun him for the money and let Ron continue on as a psychological parent?

Even that is not as simple as it sounds. On some level, genetics can and do make a difference. Larry Schwartz, who helped represent Donald Smith in his efforts to seek reimbursement from Charles Ames, notes that something subtle changed after Smith learned the three children he thought were his were not. Even though he continued to love them and seek time with them, "it hit him pretty hard," Schwartz says. "He changed jobs, moved away for a while." A little over a month ago, Smith was killed in a car accident.

And that's to say nothing of what effect the news can have on a child. Soon after the results of the genetic test came back, Ron says, Anne told her daughter that the man she thought was her father really was not. Since then, Ron says, their relationship has changed. "She doesn't call me at all," he says. "And I've told both children they can call with any questions." The last time he saw her was six months ago, at church. The last time he spent a day with her was four months before that, when they went to Red & Jerry's together.

Joe Forkan

Recently, Ron moved to Nevada to take a job promotion. He has begun dating again -- though no one seriously -- and says that someday he'd like to have a child. He adds, however, that he'd like to remain close to his ex-wife's youngest girl, as well. After all, they have a relationship.

"She's really my daughter," he explains. "I'm just not her father."

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