When a child is born, both parents have a legal duty to support that child until the child is 18 years old.

Because there are many different types of families, one thing that many parents are confused about is which children they are obligated to support.  While it’s usually understood that you have a duty to support your biological children, what about other children?  There are 4 reasons you may have to pay child support for a child that isn’t yours:

1. Presumptive children- A presumptive child is one conceived by your wife during your marriage; the child is automatically presumed to belong to you and your wife, no paternity test needed.  Therefore, even if it’s later discovered that your wife cheated on you and the child is not your biological child, depending on the age and other circumstances, you could possibly remain obligated to financially support that child.

2. Voluntarily declared child- If a woman has a child and you aren’t married, but you sign a voluntary declaration of paternity or the birth certificate after the child is born, you are acknowledging that you are the father of that child.  By doing this, you will be declared the father of that child and will be obligated to support that child.  If it’s later determined that the child is not your biological child, depending on the child’s age and other circumstances, you may be able to set aside your voluntary declaration and be relieved from this duty to support.  However, there are some circumstances that may prevent you from doing so, and you could possibly remain obligated to financially support that child as your own.

3. Child by Estoppel– If a woman has a child, who you know is not your biological child, but you represent to that child and others around him that you are that child’s father, you could be considered that child’s parent by estoppel.  In cases like these, as a parent by estoppel, in the event that the mother seeks child support, you, the “father” could be held financially responsible and be ordered to pay support.

4. Adopted child– When a person or couple legally adopts a child, that child’s legal connection to his or her birth parents is terminated.  As a result, the adoptive parents then become not only physically responsible but also financially responsible for supporting that child. Consequently, one of the parents could later be ordered to pay child support to the other.

So why is it that in so many instances a father who is not the biological parent could be held legally responsible for supporting that child?  Many believe that this is not fair to the father, especially in cases where he genuinely thought he was the child’s biological father, but later discovered the mother was unfaithful to him.

Quite frankly, this is a messed up situation to be in period, and no matter how you look at it, it’s not fair; it’s not fair to the father or the child.  However, you must look at it from the family court’s perspective.  The court’s priority is to preserve the best interest of the child as much as possible.  This child is the product of a messy situation due to no fault of his or her own.  This child calls this man “dad”, is accustomed to having him in his or her life, and depends on him.  Would it be fair to leave the child fatherless in order to remain “fair” to the father?

 

On the other hand,  this man has grown to love and care for this child as his own, would it be fair to strip him from the bond he has developed with the child because he learns he isn’t the biological father or because he and the mother separate?  By creating this notion of being a “parent by estoppel”, “presumption”, or “declaration”, both the child’s rights and the “father’s” rights are protected.  It’s not just about the financial support.  Alongside the financial support obligation that remains comes parental rights; he will maintain the right to be a father to the child, have visitation with the child, and in many cases even custody of the child.  He would hold the same rights that a biological father would hold in a custody or support dispute.  Although not necessarily fair, in many situations, this is the most practical way to ensure that both the innocent child and the father will remain the most protected.