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Court says paternity test not enough to change support order

Imagine that you are a man in a relationship with a pregnant woman. You are not married to the woman and have suspicions that the child is not yours. But when the child is born, you sign the appropriate legal documents to become the child’s legal father. In doing so are now required to pay child support.

Years later though a paternity test confirms your suspicion: you are not the child’s father. Furthermore, the child’s biological father has been found and is taking care of the child. This brings up an important question: are you still obligated to pay child support?

This real-life scenario, while it is occurring well out of Washington’s jurisdiction, presents a complicated legal issue that is worth pointing out to our Spokane readers. It not only raises the question above about child support obligations but asks our readers to consider whether they themselves could encounter a similar problem here as well.

In the case above, the Nebraska Supreme Court held that a Minnesota man was obligated to pay child support despite what the man had been told by a Minnesota district court. Initially, the district court had ordered the man to stop paying support to the child’s mother after paternity tests determined that he was not the father.

But the Supreme Court reversed this month. The reason for their reversal stemmed from a paternity document the man signed after the child was born. Because this document established him as the legal father for 16 years, a majority of the court felt that a paternity test should not be enough to overturn it. But in one of the judge’s dissents, he pointed out that it is illogical and unfair to expect a man to pay support after paternity establishes that he is not the father.

This case is further complicated though by the fact that the boy is currently in the custody of his biological father. Does the court’s decision mean that the legal father will now pay the biological father support? Should the man, who has not assumed a parental role, be forced to pay support anyway? It’s difficult questions like these that likely led to the court’s split decision.

Source: The Omaha World-Herald, “Court Court rules man owes child support despite DNA tests,” Martha Stoddard, May 17, 2014

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