Who Is Responsible For Child Support If Paternity Is In Doubt?
Paternity law is one of the fastest growing areas of family law due to the increasing number of children born out of wedlock.
When financially supporting the child through child support is involved, this confusing area of law becomes even more complex.
In this divorce article, I’ll review two major issues of paternity law: signing the birth certificate will not necessarily obligate a man to pay child support and even if you are not the biological father, the court may still require you to pay child support.
If a father signs a birth certificate it does not necessarily mean that he is the biological father, nor will it necessarily obligate him to pay child support. The mother has a right to pursue child support from the child’s biological father.
A signature on a birth certificate is evidence of paternity, but it is not conclusive proof. A paternity test establishing at least a 97 percent probability of paternity will result in a rebuttable presumption of paternity (such a presumption can only be overcome by the presentation of clear and convincing evidence showing otherwise).
The court can, and most likely will, establish a child support obligation against the biological father, if the mother files an action with the court seeking such support.
In Georgia (where I practice), the courts may require a party to pay child support, even if he is not the biological parent, under two circumstances:
1. A person executes a written agreement promising to provide support for a child; or
2. Under the doctrine of promissory estoppel.
The Georgia Supreme Court has held that a person who executes a written agreement promising to provide support for a child is bound by the terms of the agreement. See Brannon v. Brannon, 261 Ga. 565 (1991).
Absent a written agreement to do so, the court may still require the payment of child support by a man who is not the biological or adoptive father of a child. In Wright v. Newman, 266 Ga. 519 (1996), the Georgia Supreme Court held that the doctrine of promissory estoppel in the context of child support applies under the following circumstances:
1. The man promised the child and the child’s mother that he would assume all obligations and responsibilities of fatherhood, including providing support;
2. The man held himself out as the father of the child and allowed the child to consider him as the biological father; and
3. The mother and child relied upon the promise to their detriment (one important factor here would be if the mother did not seek child support from the biological father based upon a reliance on the promise made by the man that he would support the child).
In order to determine whether or not the doctrine of promissory estoppel applies in your case, you should contact a fathers rights lawyer in your area.
Each state differs with regards to the rights to a child, specifically a child that was born out of wedlock.
By Kevin Mammola
Divorce Lawyer, Cordell & Cordell
To schedule an appointment with a Cordell and Cordell mens divorce attorney, including Kevin Mammola, an attorney in the Atlanta, Georgia office of Cordell & Cordell, please contact Cordell and Cordell Family Law.