In a Divorce Am I Responsible for Kids That Are Not Mine?

By Robin Elizabeth Margolis

There are some situations in which you can ask a court to legally terminate your responsibility for supporting children who are not yours after your divorce. Whether you are held responsible for supporting the children depends on the children's legal status as your biological kids, your adopted children, your stepchildren or children born during your marriage who are shown to have been fathered by another man.

History

Nineteenth-century American courts followed the British legal principle that children born to a married couple legally belonged to the woman's husband, and he was obliged to help support them after a divorce. Legal adoption appeared in America when Massachusetts passed the first adoption law in 1851. Adoptive parents acquired the same obligations to children after divorce that biological parents had. Stepparents, however, had no legal duty to support stepchildren after divorcing their stepchildren's biological parent.

Required Child Support

Current American state divorce law requires that you support any children who are biological children born to you and your spouse during the marriage. You are also required to support any children whom you and your spouse legally adopted during the marriage. The situation is different for stepchildren and for children born during a marriage who were fathered by a man other than the woman's husband.

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Stepchildren Support

Your stepchildren -- the biological kids, adopted children and stepchildren that your spouse acquired in another marriage or relationship before marrying you -- are usually not legally entitled to support from you after you divorce your spouse. However, if you signed a contract with your spouse agreeing to provide child support for a stepchild after a divorce, a court will likely compel you to honor the contract.

Contesting Paternity

As a husband, you are not required to support children born during your marriage who were fathered by another man if you did not consent to the situation. If you are planning to contest the paternity of a child born to your wife during your marriage, it is important to familiarize yourself with the paternity laws of the state where you live. FindLaw.com has links to the paternity laws in all fifty states. You can request that the court overseeing your divorce require you and the child to undergo DNA testing. If the child is shown by DNA testing to have been fathered by another man, you are not obligated to support the child after the divorce.

Another Man's Child

Be aware that even if a child born during your marriage is conclusively proven by DNA testing to be the child of another man, your wife can contest your refusal to support the child by showing a court that you knew during the marriage that the child was not yours and you accepted the situation. For example, you told the child that you were her father, allowed the child to live in your home and supported the child. A court may then order you to support the child after the divorce.

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Laws on False Paternity

References

Resources

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Disputes over custody can hit a snag when a child's mother denies that an estranged or ex-husband or lover is the biological father of the child. In those cases, you may have to file a paternity suit and undergo a DNA test to establish your claim to your child. When celebrity Anna Nicole Smith died in 2007, she was embroiled in a legal contest with her ex-lover, Larry Birkhead, over the paternity and custody of her daughter, Dannielynn. DNA tests showed that Birkhead was Dannielynn's biological father, and he gained full custody of her after Smith's sudden death.

Child Support Help for Men

If you are presently not living with the mother of your children, you may be dealing with child support issues. If you are having difficulty meeting your financial child support obligations or you have other problems concerning child support, help is available. Fathers' rights organizations, state local agencies and even the federal government provide resources to help fathers resolve their child support issues.

New York State Divorce and Fathers' Rights

New York divorces often include custody and visitation issues if the spouses have children together. If parents can't agree on custody rights or plan a visitation schedule, the court handling the divorce case may make a court order for custody. A father's rights generally rely on the paternity, custody and divorce laws of the state, and depend on the terms of the divorce.

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