Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Who's Your Daddy!

In a recent post, Dan Nunley, of the Oklahoma Family Law Blog, reported on a case in an Kentucky court where a man was not permitted to be named father of a child even though DNA testing showed that he undeniably was the father. The problem was that he had not complied with a statute that did not permit an untimely challenge to a paternity presumption in favor of the man who was married to the mother at the time of the child's birth. Apparently, in Oklahoma there is a somewhat similar statute. When the mother is married in Oklahoma when the child is born, if the prospective father is not the one married to the mother, he only has two years to challenge the presumption that the husband is the father.

In most cases, that is not a problem because the husband is the father. In a few cases, however, there can be a problem if the husband is not the father, but the real father and/or the husband are not aware of the real facts. Apparently, the law would prevent the real father from belatedly establishing his paternity and building a relationship. It would also prevent the husband from possibly avoiding paying child support for a child that was not his. As a result, sometimes men are forced to pay child support for children who are not their children.

In Texas, while there is a presumption that the husband of a mother is the father of a child born during their marriage, in most cases it can be attacked as long as there has not been a court order formally stating that the husband is the father. DNA testing is an acceptable method of proving or disproving such paternity.

Not being able to prove or disprove paternity, as in the Kentucky or Oklahoma situation can lead to some problems. It could prevent a child from learning about potential hereditary health problems. It could also cut a child off from relationships with his or her rightful family and from potential inheritances.

Texas law does have another problem that can arise where there is an order finding that someone is the father of the child. Sometimes husbands just assume that they are the father when they really aren't. If they agree initially at the time of divorce that they are the father and later find out that they aren't, it is virtually impossible to undo a finding that they are the father. That's true even if DNA tests show that the ex-husband is truly not the father. The current law attempts to provide stability for children by not allowing re-litigation of paternity after it has been determined officially. That apparently outweighs, in the eye of the law, the harm done to a man required to pay child support for someone who is not his child.

The bottom line is that parents need to be careful and truthful about paternity. That is also true of men who have even brief relationships with women. There are probably many more sad stories of injustice relating to paternity.

1 comment:

Marlon Andrews said...

This is an outrage! If a man is the father he should take care fo the child, if he is not, he should not. How can any decent woman still take the man's money is beyond me but I guess if they were decent, they wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.