- by Christine Ulich
It would seem that child support is based on an obvious principle: it is the child's biological father who is the one to pays child support. However, mothers go to DCSS (Division of Child Support Services) offices on a daily basis to establish child support against a Defendant who may or may not be the father at all. This is sometimes due to a mother mistaking or misleading who the biological father is and sometimes this is due to the error of Child Support Services.
When DCSS brings the case against that alleged father, they often don't know their rights and accept a child support amount because they feel there is no other option, or don't respond to the case at all – causing the child support amount to then be deducted from their paycheck every month. This has resulted in many "Fathers" paying child support for a child who they later find out is not their child at all – sometimes doing so for years. . And that means because a pattern of child support is established, these people are also legally on the hook when they don't pay—even if they aren't the biological father.
To help sort through some of this confusion, here are a few important facts you should know about paternity rights—and how to avoid or remedy these kinds of child support situations.
A new Georgia law now makes it mandatory for DCSS to conduct paternity tests prior to ordering child support to ensure only the biological father pays child support.
Before July 1, 2015, if a Mother brought a case to DCSS, the burden of proving non-paternity was on you. Now, the Department of Human Services proactively conducts mandatory DNA tests as part of establishing child support. So, if you're worried about any child support case in the future, the mother in nearly all cases cannot make you pay child support if you are clearly not the biological father.
If a father has paid child support before July 1, 2015, it will take a paternity test and legal action to end child support.
Unfortunately for any cases predating the new law, the burden of proof is on the person paying the child support. You must arrange and pay for a paternity test. Then you need to go through the correct legal process to get a court to officially end your child support responsibilities. This isn't as easy as it sounds and involves a lot of complex legal hurdles.
You're not off the hook for past child support payments despite a pending non-paternity case.
In the eyes of the law, an agreement is an agreement. If you've already agreed to pay child support and show a track record of doing so, then you will still owe any and all payments up until the court decides that you are let go of child support responsibilities. In other words, don't get a self-righteous attitude during your case and stop paying child support. You may not be the biological father, but the law must make the final decision before you're off the hook.
Prior involvement, agreements, and legal documents hurt you the most.
Child support from a non-biological parent becomes complicated when that person signs a birth certificate, allows his child to have his last name, or shows clear evidence of a close bond with the child (such as raising the child over a long period of time). Remember, courts will still look at a child's best interests when considering any changes to child support. Your history of establishing yourself as a father through involvement and bonding over time may weigh against you as you go to court.
Retain a lawyer for any case pre-dating the new law.
Before, a person needed to challenge a paternity test within three months to contest any child support obligations. That means any case prior to July 1, 2015 will automatically be problematic because you've waited too long. Because ending child support payments is so legally complex, you want to do it right.
Only an attorney will know how to jump through the right hoops for you. Call us for more inforamtion or a consultation if you are having similar issues.