An Iowa man made headlines recently after he announced that he intended to fight a court order that directed he pay child support to his wife (from whom he is separated) for her child, to whom the man expressly disavows any relation. This storyline may not be newsworthy in and of itself, but there is a wrinkle in this story: the child at issue is approximately one-year-old, and the man has not seen his wife in sixteen years.
Paternity Presumptions to Blame in This Case
The Iowa man’s legal troubles exist because of that state’s law presuming paternity to exist in certain situations. More specifically, Iowa law presumes that a man is the legal father of the child (and thus responsible for supporting the child) if the man is married to the child’s mother at the time the child is born. Legal separation does not sever the matrimonial bond between a man and woman: they are still considered husband and wife, even if they are living miles apart and rarely if ever, see one another. A court looking to determine if this particular paternity presumption – that the husband of a wife who bears a child while the couple is married is presumed to be the father – applies in a particular case (and, if so, whether to give it any effect) does not consider the geographical distance between the parties for the period of time leading up to the birth, whether the couple was on speaking terms, or how much time had elapsed since the couple had actually had sexual intercourse.
Illinois Husbands Have Reason to Worry, Too
Iowa’s laws in this regard are actually in conformity with the approach taken by a majority of states, including Illinois. A male Illinois resident who separates but does not divorce his wife will be presumed to be the legal father of any child that his wife bears. This would obligate the husband to pay child support for the children she bears, even if he is not the actual biological father of the children. (A husband/father in such a situation would also have the right to see the children and establish a parent-child relationship if he chose to do so.
A father who is certain a child is not his biological child but who is presumed to be the legal father of the child because of a paternity presumption can overcome that presumption, but it is not always as straightforward of a task as it might seem. Where two or more men are presumed to be the legal father of a child because of a paternity presumption, a court may determine which presumed father would be the child’s legal father – even if this person is not the presumed father of the child.
Arami Law’s team of skilled Chicago family law attorney are here to assist Illinois residents to establish paternity and can help challenge paternity where appropriate. Contact our firm at (312) 584-6355 or contact us online for assistance with your case today.