Legal Guide

Can I be Required to Pay Child Support for a Child That is Not Mine?

Parents are obligated to take care of their children and provide everything the child needs. Relationships sometimes do not work out as planned between parents, necessitating the couple to go their separate ways. However, the obligation to cater to the child's needs is still binding even if the parents are no longer together.

“Federal law is out to secure the child’s welfare through child support by ensuring that a non-custodial parent pays child support towards the provision of the child’s needs,” says Galit Moskowitz of Moskowitz Law Group, LLC. A father may discover that a child is not biologically theirs and may wonder if they would still be asked to pay child support.

One is not expected to continue to pay child support for a child that is not biologically theirs. However, the father may be required to undergo a strenuous process to remove themselves from the obligation of paying child support. It is always best to work with an experienced family lawyer. 

What Is Child Support?

Child support is a specific amount of money ordered by the court, paid from one parent to another for the child's upkeep. The child support a parent pays differs from state to state. However, the payment is usually made to the custodial parent by the non-custodial parent. 

Child support is primarily made to cater to the child's welfare if they do not live with both parents. Raising a child comes with significant financial implications, and the financial support helps ensure that the parents fulfill their obligations towards their child even when they are no longer together with their partner.

Who is Required to Pay Child Support?

Most times, parents are not awarded equal custody of a child. Some situations may also necessitate the child to live more with one parent than the other. In that case, the parent the child spends more time with will be paid child support by the other parent. 

Parents do not necessarily have to be married before they can be required to pay support for the child's needs. Also, child support is not restricted to only the father, as a mother may be required to pay depending on the circumstances. Where there are issues regarding the child's biological father, the court will order a DNA test to determine paternity before deciding who pays. 

In some situations, the father may discover the child is not theirs after supporting the child financially for a while. Depending on the circumstances, the father may not be able to recover the child support paid in the past. Also, the man may be required to continue making the payment until the child is 18. 

Factors Affecting Child Support Payment After Determining Paternity

Several factors will determine if a father will be asked to stop paying child support for a child that is not theirs. These factors include:

#1. If the Parents are Legally Married or Not

Where the parents were not legally married when the child was born, the man may agree to be named as the father on the child's birth certificate. Being named as the child's father on the birth certificate in some states is enough proof, placing the man under the obligation to continue providing for the child until they are of legal age. A situation where the man held out to be the child's father may make it difficult to relinquish the obligation of paying child support.

#2. DNA Tests

Courts order a DNA test to determine paternity. However, a DNA test establishing that the man is not the biological father may not be sufficient to stop one from carrying out the responsibility that comes with paternity. 

The court is out to protect the child's interest at all times, and all decisions will reflect that. In protecting the child's best interest, the court may require the man to continue paying child support even when they are not the child's biological father.

#3. Children Born in a Marriage

Children born in a marriage are assumed by law to be the man's biological children. This is also the case when a woman has a child before getting married. The child born before her marriage is presumed to be that of her husband. 

State laws, however, differ when it comes to determining who pays child support based on paternity. This means one may still be required to pay child support even if the child is not biologically theirs. In the case of a woman who had a child before marriage, their partner may be required to pay child support for the child after they go their separate ways.

In some states, a man is considered the legal father of every child born in the marriage, even if a DNA test says otherwise. The father is allowed to dispute paternity within the first 2 years the child is born. Where the father fails to do so within the specified period, they will lose the right of rebuttal and be obligated to support the child financially till they are 18.

#4. Consent

The conduct of the parents is another factor that some courts consider in determining whether a person will pay child support for a child that is not theirs. A man may take up the fatherly role or even make the child believe they are their father. The court may require the father to pay child support in that case.

Can I Challenge Paternity?

A father can file a challenge to the paternity of a child. However, the challenge will have to be filed in the same court that gave the relevant order. For instance, if the reason for challenging paternity is to adjust a child support order, the challenge should be filed in the court that gave the order.

States have different guidelines specifying how one can contest paternity. Therefore, it is best to consult with a competent family lawyer to know what is applicable in your state of residence.

Bottom Line

Several factors play out in determining whether a man will pay child support. In some situations, proving that the man is not the biological father may not be enough to relieve the father's financial obligations to the child. Speaking with a family lawyer can help you determine the best line of action to take.  

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