Until last September, men who paid child support for children they suspected weren't biologically theirs had little recourse. If a court order said they had to pay, they had to pay.
But on May 12, 2011, Gov. Rick Perry signed into law Senate Bill 785, which allows a man to terminate his relationship with a child who isn't biologically his. To make that determination, he first must file a paternity suit and get a court-ordered DNA test. If the test proves the man and child aren't related, he's released from his child support obligations. Previously, Texas law said that if a man didn't contest paternity in his divorce case, it was decided once and for all and he was stuck making payments even if the child turned out not to be his.
The new law does impose a time limit, however. Men must file a paternity suit no later than one year from the date they discover the child may not be theirs. Those who have known since before the law took effect last September have until Sept. 1 of this year to file.
What the bill won't do is compensate men who have been paying child support for years beforehand, regardless of whether they suspected they weren't the father. And any child support debts or interest owed before the court terminates the order must also be paid. But it at least lifts an undue burden off men who could use those payments toward something -- or someone -- else.
A man from Wylie, Texas, who was one of the first to be exonerated was paying $450 a month to a woman he dated for only a short time before she became pregnant, gave birth to a son and moved to another state. He made payments for about 10 years before he finally was able to take a test to prove he wasn't the child's father. He can now spend that monthly allotment on his partner of 11 years and her son, who has a different biological father but is part of the couple's life together, the man says. "That's the family I need to take care of."
Source: CBS DFW, "DNA Deadline Nears For Texas Dads," Carol Cavazos, Feb. 20, 2012