In our previous post, our blog discussed how the Nebraska Supreme Court recently issued a decision concerning a Minnesota man found to be responsible for child support payments despite a DNA test definitively proving that he was not the child’s biological father.
In today’s post, we’ll continue to explore this fascinating case.
After the results of the genetic testing revealed that Brian F. was not B.M.’s father, the referee handling the matter indicated that he would be recommending that the request to terminate the existing child support obligations be granted.
“You’re not the dad, so to hold you responsible in the future is unconscionable,” said the referee at the June 2012 hearing. “So that’s what I’m going to recommend.”
The matter eventually came before a district court judge in October 2012, who agreed with the decision reached by the referee. To that end, he ordered child support terminated as of May 31, 2012 — the date on which the genetic test was administered — and vacated the previous paternity finding.
State officials disagreed with the outcome and ultimately appealed the matter to the Nebraska Supreme Court.
In a very interesting turn of events, the court ruled 5-2 to reverse the district court judge, setting aside the decision on the grounds that he had impermissibly altered the scope of the proceedings.
Specifically, the court held that the judge had transformed what was supposed to be an action seeking to modify child support into a paternity action.
“And because [Brian F.] was still legally the father under the paternity decree, the district court further erred when it terminated child support based solely on the finding that Brian was not the biological father of the child,” reads the opinion.
The court also noted that while many fathers argue that child support obligations should be terminated based on the results of a genetic test that excludes them as the father, there is nothing in the state’s statutes, child support guidelines or existing case law saying that this is sufficient to merit the modification or termination of child support obligations.
The court remanded the case back to the district court to address the child support modification request, and indicated that Brain F. could attempt to have the paternity finding vacated here.
If you are considering a divorce and would like to learn more about child support obligations, or would like to learn more about your options concerning modification or enforcement of a support order, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.
Source: The Lincoln Journal Star, “Man who isn’t biological dad responsible for child support, court finds,” Lori Pilger, May 16, 2014; The Omaha World-Herald, “Court rules man owed child support, after tests proved he wasn’t father,” Martha Stoddard, May 17, 2014