Wednesday, April 27, 2005

 

Assaulting common sense

The infamous JimK poses a question regarding child support, and who in the world should be responsible for paying it after DNA tests determine that a father, who has been shoveling-out dollar after dollar for Huggies and oatmeal puree, finds out that the child he's been looking after really isn't his. Specifically, JimK asks:
I've always been fascinated by what appears to me to be a complete logic disconnect in forcing a man who, after DNA and a court has determined that he is not the father, to pay child support on a child that is not his.What's the legal mojo behind such an assault on common sense?
This is a legal question, civil in nature, and in no way, shape, or form should my answer be used to justify court proceedings one way or another. However, I do have a few good words on how something like this could happen, and, I had no idea that this assignment could be so much fun, and not to mention one heck of a learning experience.

More often than not, the courts worry about the emotional effects of what will happen to the child during divorce proceedings. Even though paying for a child that isn't yours --- similar to paying for a car that you don't drive, and didn't buy --- is enough to send most men over the deep end, judges will look at the fact that a kid who wonders why his father left him might be damaged for life. But, legally speaking, there is no reason that you should have to pay for a child that isn't yours. I did a little bit of research, and located a Florida case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, titled Anderson v. Anderson (referencing: 845 So. 2d 870). In this case, a guy was with a girl, who found out that she was pregnant a little while into their relationship. A year and a half after the child is born, they file for divorce, and she hits him for child support. Before an evidentiary hearing, he recieves a phone call from one of her family members, who is claiming that the child is not his, and that she was in a relationship with another man shortly before she was with him. He flies out the door for DNA tests, and the DNA tests confirm beyond what most people would consider to be a reasonable doubt that the child is not his. He presents this fact to the court, and this is what they said:
After the dissolution of their marriage and without court order, the ex-husband subsequently submitted himself and his putative child for DNA testing. The results of the DNA test excluded the ex-husband as the biological father. The ex-husband argued in his motion that the ex-wife misrepresented that the child was his. The general master did not admit the DNA test into evidence. The general master concluded that the test was only relevant if the ex-husband could first establish that the mother committed fraud or misrepresentation. In his final report, the general master concluded that ex-husband failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he had been defrauded into believing that the minor child was his. Although the ex-husband filed his challenge within the one-year window provided by Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.540, the general master determined that the ex-husband failed to establish that the ex-wife defrauded him. The Supreme Court found that there was competent, substantial evidence in the record to support the conclusion made by the general master, adopted by the circuit court, and affirmed by the appellate court.
The court held that they cared as much about the fact that the child was not his as they did about the price of tea in China, and their rationale behind it was that they wanted proof that his ex had indeed tricked him into believing the child was his. So, in other words, he was ordered to pay for the child not because he was trying to get out of making monthly restitution, but because he was dumb enough [in the courts eyes] to believe that the child was his, and that during that period of time, he did indeed believe that it was. I'd recommend reading through the rest of the case for appelate history in the Circuit Courts.

In answer to JimK's question, it's not as much a matter of common sense, as it is a matter of procedure.

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