How The Presumption Of Fatherhood Could Put You On The Hook For Child Support

In 2013, a New Jersey woman gave birth to twin girls. Since multiple births are fairly common, hardly anyone would have thought twice about the event. However, a paternity test later revealed the twin girls had two different fathers. This type of twin birth is known as superfecundation and occurs about once every 13,000 births. Though one of the fathers was only ordered to pay child support for his daughter, he easily could've been made to pay for both. Here's more about this issue.

The Presumption of Fatherhood

Many states operate on the presumption of fatherhood theory. If a man is married to a woman, he is presumed to be the father of any children produced during the relationship and becomes legally responsible for them. Men who put their names on the children's birth certificates are also considered to legally be their fathers. Even if it is discovered at a later date that the man is not the biological father of the child, many states are more concerned about ensuring the child has the support of a father and will reject any attempts by the "man on record" to distance himself from the child.

This means that the man could end up paying child support for a non-biological child. In fact, it happens all the time. For example, a Chicago man was made to pay $30,000 in child support to his ex-girlfriend, even though he discovered the girl was not his biological child when she was 4 years old. His case was heard before the Illinois Supreme Court who ruled that the birth certificate represented a binding document that permanently attached responsibility for the child to the people that sign it.

In some cases, a woman only has to list a man as the father of her child and the state will pursue him for child support payments. This happened to a Detroit man who was informed by the state that he had fathered a child. The woman he had been in a relationship with previously had told the state's public assistance agency that the man was the father, though she didn't know for sure at the time. Though the man was able to prove the child wasn't his, he was still required to pay $30,000 in back child support.

Disputing Paternity and Ending Child Support Payments

States have a vested interest in requiring men to continue paying child support for children who are not biologically theirs, and the laws are often designed to work against men who challenge paternity of children and seek to end child support payments. For instance, in California, you only have two years from the child's birth or after declaring yourself the father to go back and challenge paternity; otherwise, you permanently lose the right to do so.

However, some states are recognizing that existing paternity and child support laws are problematic and working to change them. For instance, the Illinois Senate approved a bill that would allow men to continue challenging paternity even after the statute of limitations has passed if they have DNA evidence supporting their cases.

If you're paying support for a child who is not yours, contact the most experienced attorneys for help with resolving the situation in a way that benefits you.