Paternity Challenge to Avoid Child Support Cannot Be Raised Indefinitely in Maryland … or Florida

Husband and Wife are married for sixteen years.

During the marriage, Husband has a vasectomy.

Several years later in 1992, Wife gives birth to another child, Daughter.

Husband treats Daughter as his own child in every way.

During the divorce, Husband enters a settlement agreement with Wife on custody and child support for Daughter.

When Daughter is in her teens, the local child support agency (Agency) petitions to modify Husband’s child support, to increase it.

At that time in 2005, for the first time, Husband denies paternity of Daughter … when Daughter is approximately thirteen years of age.

At trial, the court orders a paternity test. As expected, the result disproves Husband’s biological relationship to Daughter.

Child support is terminated and the Agency appeals.

Maryland’s highest court reverses, holding that the trial court should not have ordered the paternity test. The opinion appears to be based primarily on the appellate court’s view of the best interests of Daughter.

A stronger rationale might have been grounded in Husband’s unreasonable delay in asserting his change of position.

Despite changes in the law in many states now making it easier for a man to challenge paternity and avoid a child support obligation, this child support case would have come out the same way in Florida today.

In Florida as in Maryland, a de facto father does not have a legal right to change his mind about taking on the role of father at any old time he pleases, at his whim. Any paternity challenge must be fairly timely to stand a chance of succeeding at avoiding a child support obligation.

Read more in this Maryland Daily Record article: Court: judge erred in allowing paternity contest after 13 years.