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Paternity can play key role in Massachusetts child support cases

Child support provides important financial stability for a divorced parent's children. Disagreements over the amount of support naturally occur, but in certain cases some fathers claim that they owe no support obligations because the child is not their offspring. Paternity cases are an important part of family law, and a case from another state reveals the extent of that importance.

During a short-lived affair, a woman conceived and gave birth to a child she claimed belonged to a particular man. Although he denied he was the child's father, a court required him to pay child support to the child's mother. When he had accumulated over $50,000 in child support debt, the state placed him in jail at the start of this year.

The state's legislature recently created a window of a few months during which men who believe they are wrongly listed as a child's father can file a paternity challenge. With the help of his lawyer, the man took the DNA test, which conclusively proved that he was not the child's father. He was released from custody not long after the laboratory returned the results. A family law judge voided his status as the child's father, and the mother agreed not to pursue him for the child support.

This case vividly demonstrates the certainty a DNA test can provide when there is a paternity dispute. But a DNA test is not just used to challenge paternity; it can also be used to establish who the father is. And determinations of paternity can affect child support obligations. Since family law varies among the states, however, people considering either challenging or establishing paternity should know how the law works in their case.

Source: CBS DFW, "Man Jailed For Child Support For Baby That Wasn't His," Carol Cavazos, April 12, 2012.

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