A man in Houston, Texas is contesting a court order requiring him to pay almost $65,000 in child support payments for a child that he is not the father of.
According to ABC News, the man in question is the father of three of his own children, and is raising two of his brother’s children. Last year, a deputy arrived at his door with court papers informing him that, in the eyes of the Texas legal system, he has another child. At the time of this discovery, the child was 15 or 16 years old. The man claims that he did not know about the daughter prior to the deputy’s visit, but met her for the first time shortly thereafter.
The man, his wife, and the woman he had been in a relationship with when the daughter was conceived all agreed that he should get a DNA test. The test results confirmed that he was not the father. However, this did not end the saga.
A 14-Year-Old Child Support Claim
It turns out that in 2003, the man’s ex-girlfriend had told a court that the man was the only possible father of the child. The state of Texas then began to calculate child support payments, which have continued to add up for the past 14 years and now total almost $65,000.
At the heart of this dispute is chapter 161 of the Texas Family Code, which states that even if a man is not the biological father of a child, he still owes any child support that accrued before a DNA test establishes paternity and before a petition is filed with the court attesting that he is not the father.
The man claims that he was never informed of the ex-girlfriend’s claim. His lawyer has said that she researched court records and there were “anomalies” in how the case was handled and that the man was never served with the paternity petition when it was originally filed against him in 2003.
In addition to pointing to the claim she filed in 2003, the man’s ex-girlfriend has also argued that some child support was already taken from the man’s paycheque long ago and that he never objected to this. Indeed, records indicate that three garnishments of $31 each had been taken when the man worked at a car dealership. This may be enough to establish a support claim that the man ought to have objected to at the time the garnishments were made. The ex-girlfriend’s lawyer has stated:
Don’t stick your head in the sand …It won’t go away and there can be consequences even if you don’t do anything.
The man’s own lawyer argues that while counsel for the ex-girlfriend claims that the man should have “fought back then”, she questions “how can you fight something that you don’t know anything about?”
Unless the man can convince a judge to review the original court order it will stand. If the court chooses not to re-open the man’s case, he will either have to pay the amount owing or go to jail. He is scheduled to be back in the courtroom in August.
Whatever the final outcome, the man says he hope that state laws will change in order to prevent future situations like his, and told ABC News:
I never thought in my whole life I would have to defend myself or something that I am innocent of.
We will continue to follow developments in this matter, and will provide updates as they become available. In the meantime, if you have questions about child support in Ontario, contact knowledgeable Windsor divorce lawyer Jason P. Howie at 519.973.1500 or contact us online. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, and also by lawyers, counsellors and other professionals.