Paternity defendant avoids paying child support

Even if a defendant in a paternity case is actually the child’s father, he may be able to avoid paying child support by arguing that there is already an existing father figure in the child’s life, according to New York’s highest court.

The mother in the case gave birth to a daughter when she was living with a boyfriend. The boyfriend was listed as the child’s father on her birth certificate. Twelve years later, the mother filed a paternity action against another man, claiming he was actually the father and demanding child support.

The defendant argued that the mother shouldn’t be able to seek support from him because she continued to live with her boyfriend, and the boyfriend was a genuine father figure in the child’s life.

The court agreed with the defendant. It said that because the mother encouraged a close relationship between the child and the boyfriend as a father figure, it would be detrimental to the child’s interests to disrupt that relationship by suddenly telling the child that she had a new father.

Interestingly, the court had previously ruled that a man who wanted to claim paternity couldn’t do so because it would be against the child’s interests to disrupt a settled familial relationship. In this case, it applied the same principle to the mother – so what was good for the gander was good for the goose.