Should I Stop Paying Child Support If I Find Out I’m Not the Father?

Should I Stop Paying Child Support If I Find Out I’m Not the Father? Starting a family is one of the greatest joys in life. Being with someone you love, and bringing up a child together is meant to be a fulfilling if challenging experience, full of reward. However, even if you have a child with your significant other, it may not mean a happy family. Sometimes, separation and divorce is necessary to achieve a healthy lifestyle for everyone in the family.

A divorce leads to the topic of child custody. Perhaps there can be a healthy fifty-fifty split over the time each of you gets with your child, or perhaps you become the non-custodial parent that has to pay child support. But what if one day, after paying to help give your child the best life possible, you discover that you are not in fact the biological father of that child.

A child support lawyer can help you dispute your child-support determination, but think carefully about that decision. You could lose more than you think. Terminating child support means the court has accepted you’re not the father – and if you’re not the father legally, then you have no right to parenting time with the child. If you love your child no matter who his or her biological father is, you may wish to continue paying child-support after all.

What is a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity?

One of the steps you can take if you are concerned about the paternity of your child is to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAoP) document. A VAoP is “a simple legal process for an unmarried mother to establish paternity with the biological father. This process will allow the father’s name to be added to the birth certificate and if the parents choose, for the child to have his last name.” The best time to do this is around the time of the child’s birth. According to the Child Support Handbook of Tennessee’s Department of Human Services:

In Tennessee, if the child’s mother is married at the time of the child’s birth, the husband is assumed to be the legal father of the child (responsible for supporting the child). If the child’s mother is not married when the child is born, the child does not have a legal father. Paternity must be legally recognized before child support can be ordered. Unmarried parents have the option to legally establish the paternity of their child by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital, local health department, or local Child Support Office. Paternity testing can also be conducted to assist with determining the biological father of the child.

There are some things to consider before signing one of these documents. If you believe that you might not be the biological father of the child, you should not sign as VAoP, as the DNA of the child will need to be tested to determine whether you are biologically related. If you do sign the document knowing that you are not the biological father, the court is far less likely to modify your

A quick note about the rights of unmarried fathers

If you discovered that you were not the biological father of the child after years of believing you were, it can be heart-wrenching and confusing. Many men in this position choose to continue their relationship with their children, even if they separate from the mother. In this case, you would be required to pay child support because you remain the legal guardian of the child.

If you were never married to your partner, and you never signed a VAoP, you may still be able to claim you are the presumed father if you lived with your partner. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really mean anything in the eyes of the law. Technically, you have no legal rights to the child. None. So you cannot be forced to pay child support, but you also cannot demand parenting time. An unmarried mother has full legal and physical custody of the child, even a child you helped to raise.

What if I do want to stop paying child support?

If you do decide you want to stop paying child support for a child who is not yours, you need to take a few steps. Remember – child support is court ordered, so failing to pay it can subject you to fines and other penalties.

First, you need a paternity test to show that you are not the biological father. Once you have the proof that you are not the biological father, you must bring this to the court to have the child support order modified/terminated. We can assist you with filing a Petition to Disestablish Paternity, which will stop all child support payments moving forward. It will also terminate all of your parental rights to the child.

Three things you should know:

  1. If you were married at the time your partner was pregnant and raised that child as your own or if the child was born within 300 days of the divorce (about 10 months), thereby leading to the presumption of paternity, the court may deny your request to stop paying child support even if you are not biologically the father.
  2. You cannot seek repayment for any child support you already paid, and you may still be required to pay any back child support you already owe.
  3. You generally only have five years to file a petition for disestablishment.

It is likely that you have formed a bond with this child, whether or not you are biologically the father. It is not only confusing and painful to find out that your partner lied to you and perhaps cheated on you, but can also affect how you see yourself, your child, and your partner. The decision of whether or not you choose to be the child’s father is up to you, and what the court decides is best for the child. A Maryville child support lawyer can help you file the correct documents and present your case to the court, handling the legal process with ease and prowess. At Shepherd & Long, our attorneys put you first, and we’ll handle your case with care and discretion. To schedule a consultation at our Maryville office, call our number at 865-982-8060, or use our contact page. We serve Blount County and East Tennessee.