It's often been said that if parents knew in advance how much their bundle of joy would cost in bundles of cash over 18 years, they'd think twice about having kids at all. Fortunately, most parents aren't deterred by that. But a family law case has prompted one court to literally put a price on a child's life.
A man who discovered the daughter he raised isn't his own has been given license to sue the biological father for the cost of raising her for 15 years. According to the Connecticut Supreme Court, that cost is $190,000 -- quite a hefty child support bill.
The husband of the child's mother sensed all along something was amiss, starting when her business partner rode home from the hospital with the proud parents. He maintained a close presence over the next 15 years, from piano recitals to graduation ceremonies. The husband, meanwhile, noticed that his youngest daughter didn't resemble her siblings at all. He finally decided to do his own experiment, obtaining a hair sample from his daughter and sending it with one of his own to a lab. When it was confirmed they didn't share the same DNA, he confronted his wife and they divorced in 2007.
In their separation agreement, they listed only the elder daughter. According to the court document, the mother believed her business associate was the father and that "he had provided the younger daughter with support since and would continue to do so." A DNA test confirmed he was the girl's father.
A year after the divorce, the woman's ex-husband filed a suit against the girl's father, seeking damages on claims of nondisclosure, misrepresentation and unjust enrichment. A lower court ruled against him on the grounds that he had acted as her father and that she believed he was, having relied on him for emotional and financial support. Allowing the truth to come out now, the court said, "would be detrimental to her emotional well-being."
But this week the Connecticut Supreme Court unanimously overturned that ruling and sent the case back to the Superior Court, saying there was no evidence the lawsuit would be of financial detriment to the child.
What would you do if you discovered the child you raised as your own was not, in fact, your own? With the feelings of the child pushed up against all the money spent on him over the years, there may be no easy answer.
Source: ABC News, "Court Allows Man to Seek Money from 'Daughter's' Biological Dad," Christina Ng, Feb. 3, 2012