If a couple has children together, custody and support agreements must be reached if the couple decides to get a divorce. These types of issues can raise concern over a father’s rights to spend time with his child and foster a parent-child relationship even after a separation.
But determining the rights of a father can raise a secondary question of paternity. How does a father establish that the child in the family is in fact his child? If the child isn’t his, should he still have to pay child support? Should he be compensated for payments already made while under the impression that the child is his? What if he was tricked into thinking the child was his?
The Tennessee Supreme Court is actually hearing a case that involves paternity fraud. A father discovered that the boy he thought was his son was not actually his biological child and that the mother of the child had led him to believe it was his son.
For several years the father had made child support payments before the boy decided to live with him. The father decided to file a lawsuit against his ex-wife, claiming paternity fraud. In the lower Tennessee court, the man was awarded damages for the child support and other financial expenditures the man had paid. He was also awarded a large sum for the emotional damage he suffered after learning that he was not the child’s father.
An appeals court reversed the decision on the grounds that Tennessee does not allow retroactive compensation in situations like this. But the man appealed to the state’s Supreme Court which will make a decision as to whether a fraud case involving paternity can move forward.
In the next post, we’ll discuss some of the implications of a case like this and how it could impact the way paternity fraud is handled in the future. In addition, we will also look at the use of DNA testing and how it fits in with paternity questions and fathers’ rights.
Source: The Tennessean: “TN high court to set limits for paternity fraud suits,” Brandon Gee, Aug. 21, 2011.