Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)

What Happens When Mom Decides That Dad May Not Really Be Dad

After 25 years in family law, I thought I had heard just about everything until “Leanne” showed up at my office one day. Leanne said she was in a little bit of a pickle. Two years earlier, although not married, she had given birth to a sweet little boy. At the time of conception, she had a steady boyfriend, “Carl”, and he agreed to be named as the father on the birth certificate. Within a few months, though, they parted company and Leanne filed for child support, with the result that Carl was ordered to pay Leanne $250 a month.


From then on, things went smoothly, more or less. Occasionally, Carl’s check would be late but it would always arrive within a week or so of when it was due. He would stop by every so often to see how the little boy was doing and had talked about how he wanted to stay involved with his son on an on-going basis. He even came to his first birthday celebration.


At about age 18 months, as her son’s features became more developed, Leanne began to notice that they bore a strong resemblance to another male acquaintance, “Gil”, someone she had seen casually on and off for a number of years. Seemingly, this spurred a sudden recollection…”out of the blue” was Leanne’s description…that she had been intimate with Gil at about the time conception occurred. Leanne was now convinced that Gil, and not Carl, is the child’s father.


Leanne believes it’s no longer right to continue to accept support from Carl, and has been holding onto his last check for three weeks, even though she needs the money. Does she tell Carl that he may not be the father? How should she go about getting Gil named the father and have him take over the support responsibilities? Does she have to repay Carl for the support he has already paid?


Yes, it is quite a pickle and one that I had never encountered before. For insight I turned to a friend and colleague, Robert S. Moss, an attorney practicing in the St. Louis City. He is the former head of child support enforcement for the state of Missouri and has had a lot of experience with unconventional situations. Bob’s counsel is the basis for much of what follows.


The first thing Leanne should do is talk to Gil about taking a genetic test to determine if he is indeed the father. (Now there’s a request that will come “out of the blue”.) Admittedly, the prospect of him doing so voluntarily is pretty slim. His contacts with Leanne are infrequent and he has no relationship with the child. There is nothing in it for him except a long-term financial obligation for a child he barely knows.


Should he decline, Leanne should ask the circuit court in which she and the child live to order Gil to take the test based on her belief that Gil is the father. However, Leanne should be prepared to be turned down. Once paternity has been established legally, even if incorrectly, most courts are reluctant to backtrack.


But, what happens if Gil consents to the test, or the court orders him to take it? Tune in next week to learn more. If Gil’s the father, will the court “bastardize” the child? Does Leanne have to pay back Carl? What happens to the relationship between Carl and the boy?