Will I have to pay child support if I’m not the biological father?

Divorce Attorney Angela FoyQuestion:

I have been raising a child since birth though I am not the biological father and the mother freely admits that. I did not sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. I am almost certain that I could never get custody or maybe even joint custody of a child where I am not the biological dad. If that is true then wouldn’t that same reasoning apply to child support? Since I have been the acting father since birth does that incur child support obligations without the possibility of joint legal custody?

Does the fact that I willingly raised this child as my own with full knowledge that her biological dad was someone else incur child support obligations for me?


From a legal perspective, acting or holding one’s self out as the child and a judgment of paternity are very different.  I do not practice in Texas, so I can only speak in generalities.

Child custody and placement are awarded to the child’s parents in a divorce or paternity judgment.  If no judgment is made, no orders on custody, placement or child support are ever issued.  A court cannot order child support or custody or placement absent that finding unless it makes findings that it is necessary to make this award to a third party for some reason, usually that the natural parents are unfit to care for the child.  That order would be in the form of a guardianship or third-party visitation schedule, which are not common.  Many times the state, through the child support enforcement agency, will petition for the paternity judgment.  If that has not been done yet, then no orders exist.

One question I read from you is whether you are at risk for being subject to a child support order. No child support order will be issued without a corresponding custody and placement order, even if the order is not joint.  Also, laws have changed dramatically to limit your exposure to back child support, although they vary by jurisdiction.

So you are not at risk for child support, because it would require fraud on the part of the mother or you, which you acknowledge has not occurred.  However, you also likely cannot get custody and placement.

As you recognized, you should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in Texas.  Cordell & Cordell has attorneys that are licensed and located in Texas, and they would be happy to discuss your case with you.


Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

 Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.

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