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Texas dad jailed on child support charges freed

A Dallas couple entered a rough patch in their marriage in 2006 and decided to separate. During the time apart, the husband had a brief sexual affair with a woman who became pregnant and claimed the man had fathered her child.

A child support order followed. The alleged father, reunited with his wife, did not dispute the woman's paternity claim legally, although he suspected he was not the child's biological dad. He also did not make monetary contributions toward the support of the child.

Child support enforcement agents caught up with the Texas man earlier this year and slapped him with a bill for $50,000. The man was sent to jail for three months on the nonpayment charge, until the lawyer representing him suggested that the man take advantage of a Texas law that could clear his name.

The attorney purchased a standard DNA test kit, and the samples and legal documents were filed. Paternity results showed the man was not the child's father. The courts severed the present and future parent-child support relationship.

The Texas statute allows fathers who question a child's biological inheritance to use DNA tests to clarify paternity. Claims must be made by doubtful fathers by Sept. 1 of this year. Courts will recognize test results that eliminate the chance that a man has fathered a child.

The results can absolve an accused parent of future support obligations, but they cannot erase the child support bills of the past that have gone unpaid. The Dallas man was out of jail but still on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in back support. Fortunately for him, the woman dropped her claim for the money. Perhaps Texas politicians need to ensure that child support collection complies with the new law. Why should a man still owe thousands if it's been proven that the child isn't his?

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

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