Monday, September 21, 2009

Missouri lets dads contest paternity

A new statute allows dads to contest paternity in divorce and paternity cases.

Here's the way it works:

If you question the paternity of a child and get a paternity test that shows that the child is not your child, you will be allowed to ask the court to set aside the order that legally says you are the child's father. The challenge to the paternity order must be done within 2 years (2 years from late December if there's already an order).

If the dad is found really to not be dad, under the new statute, he won't be able to collect child support that has already been paid - no refunds. If there is an arrearage in child support, it appears that the arrearage will go away.

Here in Jackson County there are special dockets set up to handle these cases. At this point, as you might guess, no one really knows how many people will be effected.

One of the reasons no one really knows is that there is a question as to whether the statute applies just to people who have paternity judgments - or (and this is really the bigger concern) whether it also applies to folks who are divorce and have children.

It is likely that there will be a challenge filed sometime in the next several months - especially since so many families have to deal with the courts with regard to their children. Parents who have children outside of marriage already are in the position of needing to get DNA testing to verify the parentage of their children. It would be sad, indeed, if the courts extended the need for DNA testing to include everyone with children who is getting a dissolution of their marriage.