MO: Man Cleared of Paternity, But Not Support

An article in the Kansas City Star reports on a Missouri court ruling that is consistent with the law of many states, but goes against the grain of many. The court held that a man must still support a child who was eventually proven not to be his biological (or adopted) child.

The article rationalizes the ruling by concluding it “pits fairness to men against what is considered best for children”. Certainly, the guardians of public policy stand watch over the rights and interests of innocent children.

But another, more general legal principle is just as key: once a case is decided, it’s decided. This fundamental principle is known as res judicata.

In this case, a paternity hearing was held in 1993. The alleged father apparently had notice and an opportunity to appear to dispute his paternity.

He didn’t do so. Without evidence from the alleged father to contradict the mother’s evidence, the paternity court determined that the alleged father was the legal father of the boy.

Further, even after the man learned that he wasn’t the boy’s biological father, he waited another three years to take action. Way too late.

Where the supremacy of the interests of children does come into play is in consideration of proposed legislation that would bar a paternity determination until a DNA test is produced.

If such legislation passed, any alleged father could evade his obligation to contribute to the support of his child by simply refusing to submit to a test and / or ignoring paternity proceedings – as the father in the reported case did. That would be harmful to children – and against public policy.