Florida’s tradition of family law acknowledges that there is more than one way to be a father. The child’s biological father is not necessarily the child’s legal father. In fact, when establishing paternity, the courts do not always order DNA paternity tests. Sometimes a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity is all you need. Things get more complicated when it comes to matters of child support, however. Is the biological father always the one who should pay child support for the child? The answer, according to Florida case law, is that it depends, and not always in the ways you would expect. The decision in the Parker v. Parker case will surprise many people, but the reasons behind the decision reveal a lot about what it means to be a father in Florida.
The Facts of the Parker v. Parker Case
Parker v. Parker made news as the case in which a Florida court ordered a man to continue to pay child support for his ex-wife’s son even after a DNA test proved that he was not the child’s biological father. When Richard Parker and his wife Margaret initiated their divorce, their son was more than a year old. The court ordered Richard to pay $1,200 per month in child support. Richard fell behind on the child support payments, and the court tried to enforce payment of them. Richard responded by expressing doubt that he was the child’s biological father, as Margaret had been unfaithful to him during the marriage. Even after the family underwent DNA testing, and the results showed the Richard was not the biological father, the court required him to continue paying child support. Why would a court order a man to pay child support for a child of whom he was not the biological father and whom he did not adopt?
Protecting the Best Interest of the Child
The short answer as to why the court did not release Richard Parker from his child support obligations is “statute of limitations.” The court argued that if Richard had serious doubts about his genetic relationship to the child, he should have raised the issue at the time the divorce papers were filed. The statute of limitations would have given him one year from the time of filing. In actuality, he waited 16 months. To the court, it appeared that Richard only thought to challenge his paternity as a last resort to get out from under a heavy burden of child support obligations.
In awarding rights and obligations to a child’s legal parents, the court must prioritize the best interests of the child. Richard Parker had raised his wife’s son since birth and he seemed to want to continue to be involved in the child’s life, even after the results of the DNA test were revealed. The family court system is committed to seeing that children are cared for and financially supported; it protects them from being used as a weapon by adults, to punish their ex-spouses.
Alan R. Burton Will Protect Your Child’s Interests and Yours
Paternity is one of the most complex issues in Florida law, and one where a wise and compassionate attorney is most needed. Contact Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton, Florida about cases involving paternity and child support.