Question: When I was 16 and naive I was led to believe that my then girlfriend was pregnant with my child. Guess what?! After ten years of faithfully paying child support the secret has come out. The child who I have only seen a handful of times is, in fact, not my son. What’s more, it is the child of a guy whom I thought I was friends with. My question is: because I was under age at the time I signed the birth certificate, because I have witnesses who know for certain and would testify that I was intentionally misled, because I am certain that I am not the biological father, and because I am certain who is the father, and because I have not been allowed to have a relationship with this child do I have any chance of having my duty to support this child removed? How would I go about putting together my case? Are there any damages that can be awarded in such a case? My life has been essentially wrecked due to this bogus charge.
Answer: First things first, you need to contact a domestic litigation attorney in Illinois immediately. Although I do not practice in Illinois, Cordell & Cordell has attorneys who are licensed and located in Illinois who would be happy to discuss your case with you. Unfortunately, in many states there is little relief after a father has been adjudicated.
Generally, prior to ordering child support, paternity must be established. This does not require DNA testing, rather, the form you signed at the hospital would suffice. A minor does not need a guardian’s permission to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, just a witness. However, the paternity is not conclusive until six months after you turn 18.
Considering you are at least 26 years old, the time to withdraw the acknowledgment has passed. Therefore, in many jurisdictions, you are Dad despite the fact that a genetic test may prove otherwise.
Depending on the circumstances of your case and the laws of your jurisdiction, you may be able to petition the court to rescind the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity based on fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. You should consult a domestic litigation attorney immediately to describe your situation and to see whether you may have a chance for relief.
Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.