Is a man who claimed paternity of a child obligated to continue paying child support even after a DNA test determines that he is not biologically the child’s father? That was the question facing the Nebraska Supreme Court recently. It ruled in a split decision that a lower court should not have terminated the man’s child support obligations.
The Minnesota man officially acknowledged that he was the father of the now 19-year-old in 1995, just months after his birth. The boy was taken from his mother in 2009, when he was still a minor. After that, the man’s support payments were ordered to be increased.
During the fight to terminate or reduce his monthly payments, which were $369, a DNA test determined that he was not the boy’s biological father in May 2012. A district judge determined later that year that the payments should be terminated retroactively to the DNA test date.
The state appealed the case, and it ended up in the state’s high court. The justices reversed the lower court’s order that the payments be terminated. They also sent the case back to the district court to determine whether a child support modification is in order.
The justices in the majority on the ruling noted that under the paternity decree, the man was still legally the boy’s father. Further, they found no legal basis for changing the man’s support obligations based solely on paternity test findings. One dissenting judge, however, noted that at the time the man was officially declared to be the boy’s father when he was just a baby, the law had no obligation to pay child support if he was not the adoptive or biological father.
When issues of a child’s paternity arise, particularly later in a child’s life, things can get sticky. Children and mothers often depend on child support payments. To have those suddenly terminated can create a significant financial burden that ultimately may hurt the child most of all.
On the other hand, there’s certainly an argument to be made that a man shouldn’t have to support a child who is not biologically his if he did not adopt the child. North Dakota family law attorneys can advise people who find themselves on either side of this dilemma and help them work toward a resolution that is best for their client, and of course, the child.
Source: Lincoln Journal Star, “Man who isn’t biological dad responsible for child support, court finds” Lori Pilger, May. 16, 2014