A story recently reported in the news highlights the importance of paternity actions. Even though Joe V. had not even seen his estranged wife for 15 years, he was suddenly served with a court order requiring him to pay child support for her new baby. Of course the child was not his, but Iowa law held him financially responsible for the child's welfare because he and his wife were technically still married. Many states assume paternity for any child born during the marriage, regardless of whether the couple was actually together or not.
Joe was not only unable to afford child support but he had to start a GoFundMe page in order to raise money to hire a lawyer. His attorney advised him a DNA test was not enough to reverse the court order and worked with him to officially de-establish paternity through the court. Joe and his attorney were eventually successful in relieving Joe of his obligation to pay support. However, the law that forced the initial court order remains on the books.
There may be thousands of men across the country going through similar situations. One way to keep this from happening to you is to be smart about establishing - or de-establishing - paternity. As noted in Joe's story, a DNA test may not be enough. Courts may order child support payments for any child, whether he is born in wedlock or outside of marriage. Laws require courts to establish support based on marriage and paternity, among other factors. If you think a child may not be yours biologically, it is up to you to disprove the child is yours. If a child is yours biologically, you have both responsibilities and rights.
Whether you have a child born out of wedlock or find yourself in an unusual situation like Joe's, you need an experienced, knowledgeable family attorney. Without his lawyer's help, Joe could have been paying child support for 18 years or more. Laws regarding child support obligations are specific and can be confusing. If you have questions regarding paternity and child support here in New Jersey, please visit the information for unmarried parents page on our website.