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Child support by deception: what should you do?

Child support is an understandably important matter in Pennsylvania and across the country. Paid for the benefit of the children involved, child support is typically due from the noncustodial parent and remitted to the custodial parent. The payments can quickly add up to a significant sum, and few would argue that the cost of raising a child in modern society is unsubstantial. One case from another state recently tackled the question of what happens when a child support order is based on the willful deception of one of the parties.

One man is said to have stepped up to the paternal plate and proposed marriage when a woman told him that he was the father of her child. Thereafter, they got married and were together for the better part of 10 years. Their marriage crumbled when the wife admitted to him that she had an affair while he was off driving a truck for a living. In their subsequent divorce and child custody proceeding, he discovered that his wife had lied to him all along. He was not the biological father of the child.

The man then sued through the Tennessee court system, where the case originated. He sought to recover child support payments, health insurance premiums and doctors bills he had paid since the divorce. The trial court agreed and awarded him in compensatory damages. Those damages included attorney fees and emotional distress. While an appeals court reversed the trial court, the state’s highest court reinstated the judgment, holding that the facts constituted intentional misrepresentation under Tennessee common law.

While the decision of Tennessee’s highest court is not binding in Pennsylvania, the underlying issues are of importance anywhere. Those individuals who believe they have been victimized by intentional misrepresentation of facts may benefit from seeking guidance regarding the law in Pennsylvania and the appropriate relief. While each child support situation is different and may call for different approaches, those who are fully informed of their rights will likely be in the best position to take advantage of them to achieve a fair result.

Source: Examiner.com, “Tenn. High Court rules woman owes damages for lying about fatherhood of child,” David Oatney, Oct. 2, 2012