A man cannot recoup child support payments he made for a son he later found out was not his own, the state Supreme Court has ruled, overturning lower courts’ decisions.
In its unanimous ruling, the justices ruled that the man, identified only as Roy in the lawsuit, was not entitled to payments he made since his 1980 divorce because state law required such a challenge to be filed before the child turned 23 years old.
The court ruled that even though the man found out only long after his son turned 23 that he was not the father, it wasn’t enough to force the biological father, identified as Patrick, to pay child support.
“This is a sad, heartbreaking case of a man who learned that an essential truth had been withheld from him for thirty years,” wrote Justice Barry Albin. But the court thought that lawmakers envisioned such a scenario when creating the Parentage Act.
“The Legislature evidently knew what has been known since time immemorial — that children would be born of adulterous relationships and that the true identity of the father might not be known for more than twenty-three years,” Albin wrote.
Ex-husband told for medical reasons
The man was told in 1999 by his ex-wife, identified as Bonnie, that their youngest son was actually the child of the boy’s godfather.
A lower court sided with the man after a DNA test proved he was not the father and ordered the biological father to pay the child support. The appellate court again sided with the man, and the biological father again appealed to the Supreme Court.
According to the court ruling, the boy’s mother told him about the affair because she worried her son might be carrying the gene for muscular dystrophy, a disease that eventually killed both of Patrick’s children. She worried the boy, identified as Darren, might pass along the disease to his children.
“You don’t have a lot of heroes here,” said attorney Melvyn Bergstein, who represented the biological father in the case. He said the court made the best decision it could with a difficult situation and that his client was pleased with the decision.
A lawyer for Roy did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.
According to Bergstein, his client tried to have a relationship with his son but it didn’t work out. In its ruling, the court wrote that Darren and Roy are still very close, despite learning they are not biologically related.