Maury says you are NOT the father! Actually, after getting the results of a genetic or DNA test, you discover that you are not the father of the child you were led to believe was yours and had been supporting. Rather, the child you have been supporting was the offspring of an extramarital affair between your ex-wife and another man conceived during your marriage. Once you get past the shock of such a disclosure, you question to what extent you may have an ability to seek reimbursement from the biological father for the support you had already paid on behalf of that child.
If you turned to the internet for an answer to that question, you might not only have been led to believe you had no right to do so, but that you were a selfish, horrible and “grotesque” person for even raising the issue. This was essentially the exchange highlighted on my browser’s home page a few weeks back. As a lawyer, it is obvious that such “advice” would be legally erroneous, certainly under New Jersey law. However, I wondered how many people may have relied upon this response as opposed to discussing the matter with an attorney.
Before commenting on whether it is wise or prudent to rely upon “Ask the Internet” to get answers to significant legal questions, I will address whether under New Jersey law a claim for reimbursement of child support can be brought against one determined to be the biological father of a child. The applicable statute as well as our courts have answered yes. Situations such as these are governed by the provisions of the New Jersey Parentage Act, N.J.S.A. 9:17-38 to 59, enacted in 1983, and modeled after the Uniform Parentage Act 1973. The Parentage Act was intended to establish the principle that regardless of the marital status of the parents, all children and parents have equal rights with respect to each other and to provide procedures to establish parentage in disputed cases, as well as to ensure that children receive their statutory right to financial support and to facilitate payment by fathers who refused to admit paternity and/or fail to pay. To that end, the Parentage Act not only provides all children with a judicially enforceable right to such support, regardless of their parents’ marital status, it affords to “any person” who has furnished financial support to a child the ability to institute a proceeding seeking reimbursement for reasonable educational, medical or other support-related expenses from the biological father where the existence of the father/child relationship has been declared or paternity is acknowledged or adjudicated. N.J.S.A. 9:17-55(a).