Reality vs. Paternity: 17 Years is Too Late to Ask for DNA Paternity Test

August 22, 2014 | Child Support, Court Decisions, Legal Perspective

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

Men who pay child support in Pennsylvania to mothers who were never their wives may wonder whether the children they support are their own. These days, it is easy to administer a home paternity test and quickly learn whether there is a blood relation between the child and the man who is paying support. Yet, it’s a Pandora’s box, and once opened, the consequences might not be as one intended.  That’s what happened in a recent Superior Court decision (unpublished), D.S. v. S.S., No. 2037 WDA 2013 (August 22, 2014)(non-precedential).

In D.S., a child was born in 1996 to an unwed mother, who was at that time dating her boyfriend, D.S. Assuming the child was his, D.S. signed an acknowledgment of paternity in the hospital, and when a second child was born in 1999, he did the same. Mother and putative Father soon broke up, and Father agreed to pay child support. Although they resided in different cities, Father and the children maintained a parental relationship, with Father having custody twice a month. When the kids were teens, Father took a photo of them at the beach and realized that his children did not bear any physical resemblance to him. He purchased a genetic paternity test at the drug store, administered it, and soon learned that the children could not be his relatives. The children, who had known no other father in their lives, were devastated by the news, and Father’s relationship with them suffered. He sued for a judicial determination of paternity and asked the court to terminate his child support obligation.

The trial court applied the “best interests” standard and refused to excuse Father from paying child support, finding that it was in the children’s best interests to maintain their relationship with D.S. No official paternity test was ever given. The Superior Court affirmed. The Court found no evidence that Mother intentionally perpetrated a fraud on Father. More importantly, any hope of preserving the children’s relationship with Father was destroyed not by Mother, but by Father himself.  The Court held that the children would benefit greatly from continuing to have Father in their lives. Whether his role will be parental or merely financial depends, perhaps, on what he does next.

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