You Thought You Were The Father, But DNA Says Otherwise
You married your pregnant girlfriend and have lovingly jumped into the raising of the child. You are more than attached to the child—you have embraced the role of father, after all. But there have been some red flags indicating that maybe your then-girlfriend was less than loyal around the time that she became pregnant. You had to know: was the baby yours? A DNA test delivered the devastating news: the child is not yours after all. Now what?
The Law vs. Emotions
You married your spouse and have been married since before the birth, so you are the father and legal guardian of this child according to Missouri law. If you now choose to divorce your spouse, what are your legal obligations to the child? Emotions aside, what are the implications of that negative DNA test? And what about cases in which men never married the child’s mother at all, but did claim paternity at the time of the birth and have their name on the child’s birth certificate? The law is basically the same regardless of whether you are married or not if legal paternity was established at one time. If you love the child, but reject the paternity label, where does that leave you? If you choose to pursue non-paternity, it can get you out of support obligations. At the same time, it can take away any claims you may wish to make for child visitation and/or custody. It’s a tricky issue, and one that requires much thought.
Since 2009 Missouri has had a non-paternity law that allows DNA testing to supersede a previous declaration of paternity or presumption of paternity. The procedure to vacate the order for paternity is pretty straightforward. You simply need to file a Petition for Declaration of Non-Paternity with the circuit court that has jurisdiction and present all evidence that you are not the biological father, including a conclusive DNA test that has been taken within about three months of the petition for non-paternity. All of this has to occur within just two years of the original paternity judgment. When everything goes according to plan, the Department of Health and Senior Services then modifies the child’s birth certificate to exclude your name. At that point, you have no legal connection to the child.
Can You be Reimbursed for Previous Expenses?
Let’s say you’ve forked over a boatload of money to support this woman and her child, including paying for maternity clothes, a nursery, daycare, and general care. Now that you’ve proven that you are not the biological father, are you entitled to be paid back for all of those expenses? The short answer is no: whatever you’ve paid out is gone. The best you can do now is move forward.
Making the Right Choice
Each person in this type of situation will feel differently and have different goals for the future. At Courtney & Mills, our experienced Springfield family law attorneys will listen, provide their best legal advice, and move forward based on what they hear from you. Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.