Can a father stop paying support if he wasn't required to in the first place?

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Question:

I was married to a man for five years. During a period of separation, I became pregnant. My husband came back and begged me to reconcile with him and said he wanted to be a part of this child's life. He paid child support voluntarily for four years; was listed on her baptismal certificate, school, and medical records; and claimed her as his daughter on his income tax returns.

Now, he has stopped paying since he met another woman -- and I'm taking him to court for child support. He says he doesn't have to pay. Will he?

Answer:

The law is mostly on your side on the issue of child support. First, all state laws presume that a child born to a marriage is the child of that marriage. Many courts hold that presumption is conclusive -- meaning it cannot be challenged. But, if you live in a state where the presumption can be challenged, the fact that you were separated when you became pregnant would be one basis for a challenge.

Also, some courts have ruled that a man who acts like the father should be treated like the father -- called the equitable parent doctrine -- even if he is not the biological father. In one recent case much like yours, decided by the trendsetting California courts, a father who had been paying support suddenly stopped paying when he learned he was not the father. The court applied the equitable parent doctrine and ruled that he had to continue the child support payments until the child reached 18. So this legal trend, too, may help strengthen your claim for support.

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