A paternity issue arose in a recent case of divorced parties wherein the ex-husband learned that he was not the biological father of his presumed child. In his divorce action, he had agreed to pay child support for two children believing the first child was his. When he learned otherwise, he filed a motion with the court to disestablish paternity and to obtain a credit for child support paid for that child. The lower court denied his application stating that the ex-husband signed the child’s birth certificate, he did not previously contest paternity and he had treated the child as his own over the course of the child’s life. He filed a similar motion a year later. The lower court again denied his motion.
The ex-husband filed an appeal, and the Appellate Division remanded the case to the trial court for a hearing, stating that the court should weigh the following factors:
- The length of time between the proceeding to adjudicate parentage and the time that the presumed or acknowledged father was placed on notice that he might not be the genetic father;
- The length of time during which the presumed or acknowledged father has assumed the role of father of the child;
- The facts surrounding the presumed or acknowledged father’s discovery of his possible non-paternity;
- The nature of the relationship between the child and the presumed or acknowledged father;
- The nature of the relationship between the child and any alleged father;
- The age of the child;
- The degree of physical, mental, and emotional harm that may result to the child if presumed or acknowledged paternity is successfully disproved;
- The extent to which the passage of time reduces the chances of establishing the paternity of another man and child-support obligation in favor of the child;
- The extent, if any, to which uncertainty of parentage exists in the child’s mind;
- The child’s interest in knowing family and genetic background, including medical and emotional history; and
- Other factors that may affect the equities arising from the disruption of the father-child relationship between the child and the presumed or acknowledged father or the chance of other harm to the child.
In addition to the above, the Court must always consider the best interests of the child.