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Mother must pay $130,000+ for lying about fatherhood of child

A woman who purposely lied about the parentage of her son, prompting a marriage, must pay damages (in excess of $130,000) to her ex-husband who supported and loved the child believing it was his, ruled the Tennessee Supreme Court. Nine years after the marriage, the wife's admitted to adultery, causing a divorce.  The husband was ordered to pay child support for the child he thought was his son and his adopted daughter.  He continued to visit "his" chldren and evenmoved to be closer to them.  Approximately seven years after the divorce, the husband learned from DNA tests that he was not the father of the teenage son.

The Supreme Court viewed this case as a common-law action for intentional misrepresentation. The Court reviewed that the child was conceived either while the parties were in high school or shortly thereafter. When the mother told the boy/man that the child was his, he proposed marriage. The husband brought up the son that he thought was his and also adopted the woman's daughter born while the mother was in high school.

The damage award included a return of child support and medical insurance for the son plus $100,000 for the emotional stress suffered by the father. The Court noted that Tennessee has a statute reflecting the awareness of the existence of claims to rebut or disestablish paternity and a possibility that a person found not to be the biological father could pursue a claim for damages against the child's biological parents. The Court noted that five other states, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Utah, recognized that a putative father may maintain an action for damages for intentional misrepresentation or fraud against a child's mother based upon her misrepresentation regarding the identity of the biological father.

Other courts may refuse to follow this path and consider the best interest of the child, which would reflect on the age of the child and the mother's ability to pay such damages. The Court did note that the goals of preserving intact families and promoting a healthy relationships between parent and child would not be met in this case; the child, upon learning that the ex-husband was not his biological father, refused to see the father. The child was over the age of eighteen and not entitled to on-going support.

Since the parties did not address the issue, there was no discussion about the adopted daughter and the costs related to her.

For your issues on child support and representation/mediation to resolve those issues, contact Steven Hirsch

Souce:, "Tenn. High Court rules woman owes damages for lying about fatherhood of child", David Oatney, October 2, 2012.

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