A woman I had a brief affair with 15 years ago is now claiming that I am the father of her child. She is recently divorced from the man the child has known as “dad”, and now this woman is demanding I pay child support for a child I never even knew about for almost 15 years!
Will I have to pay child support or is there a statute of limitations to bring a suit to determine paternity or a paternity law that blocks this? Does the person the child calls “dad” have any financial obligations?
Since I am only licensed to practice law in the state of Texas, I can only provide general divorce help for men on how a Texas court might deal with your situation.
In Texas, in order to be ordered to pay child support, the paternity of the child must be established. Paternity suits are governed by the Uniform Parentage Act. A paternity suit may be brought by the child, the child’s mother, the alleged father, or a government entity. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.602.
However, a person may not be adjudicated to be a child’s father unless the court has personal jurisdiction over that person.
There is no statute of limitations to bring a suit to determine paternity, meaning the suit can be brought even after the child is an adult. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.606.
On Motion of the mother, father, child, or entity bringing suit for paternity, the court can order that the child and “father” submit to genetic testing. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.502.
If the results of the genetic testing are at least a 99% probability of paternity, the man is identified by the court as the child’s father; however, these results can be rebutted by other genetic testing stating a contrary result.
If the alleged “father” refuses to submit to genetic testing, the court may cite the man for contempt and fine him, or the court may enter an order adjudicating the man is to be the child’s father. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.622(b).
A decree designating a man as a child’s father establishes a parent-child relationship for all purposes. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.203. As such, if such a finding is made the court may order future child support as well as retroactive child support be paid by the father.
Pursuant to the Texas Family Code, section § 154.131(c), there is a rebuttable presumption that retroactive child support not exceeding the amount that would have been due under the child support guidelines for the proceeding four years is reasonable and in the child’s best interest.
However, this presumption can be rebutted with evidence that the man knew or should have known that he was the father of the child and was evading the establishment of a support obligation. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.131(c)(2).
Thus, if the child’s mother wants to try and obtain retroactive child support spanning back more than four years, she will need to present evidence rebutting the presumption. In order to do so, she will have to show that the man knew or should have known that he was father of the child and attempted to avoid a child-support obligation.
If this can be shown, then the court can award retroactive child support back to the date that the father knew or should have known of the obligation. See Tex. Fam. Code § 154.131(d). If this cannot be shown, than the father will only be responsible for past child support going back up to four years prior to the order.
Once it has been established that a man is the father and he is ordered to pay child support, this obligation ends if: (1) the child reaches 18 or graduates from high school; (2) the child dies, (3) the child begins active service in the armed services, (4) the father and mother marry, or (5) the parent-child relationship is terminated.
It is not clear from the facts presented to me in your question, but if the woman was married at the time of the child’s birth, her husband at the time may have acknowledged paternity and may already be the presumed father.
Since I do not know the specifics of your situation, I cannot advise you on how to best protect yourself in this current situation. Please be advised that my answering of this question does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.