In paternity matters, it does come up every so often that a man is told he is the father, has no reason to doubt it, and enters into an arrangement to take care of his responsibilities as a parent. Later down the road, he finds out that the child is not in fact his and he is left with large amounts of child support, already paid or turned into a judgment against him, with no child to show for it. What happens then?
Minnesota Paternity Courts
The courts in Minnesota recognize that this kind of situation does happen, and it is not fair to the man who was trying to do the right thing to be punished financially for it. Minnesota statutes allow for a man in this situation to go back to the court within 6 months of receiving the results of any genetic tests and have the court find that there is no parent-child relationship. This action may not completely release a man from any obligations, however.
The statute sets out “presumptions” for paternity, or situations where the circumstances make it in the best interests of a child for that man to be considered the father, whether he actually is the biological father or not. One of the presumptions is if the man has held the child out as his own, meaning that he has been acting in the role as the child’s father for the rest of the world to see. If a man has been doing this, it may not be possible to overcome just with genetic testing. It is in the best interests of a child that they have someone in the role as a father, and if a child has known that man as their father, the court will not allow the man to walk away at that time.
Vacating the Judgement
The better route to go in this situation is vacating the judgement of paternity to start with. The court is able to say that the judgment is unfair based on the circumstances, which should in effect erase any arrears due in support. There is no consideration of the “best interests of the child” which normally would leave him obligated for support. The court is also able to grant restitution if it finds that it would be proper, which means that any paid child support would be returned to the father.