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Who's the Daddy? Father Sues for Paternity Lies

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Anyone who has watched the wildly popular TV series "The Walking Dead" knows that it incorporates everyday life issues in the context of a zombie-filled world. For example, the series is currently taking a Jerry Springesque turn of "who's the daddy?" Just a brief background for those who might be tuning in late: Lori  believed her husband Rick had died in the zombie apocalypse, so, as anyone TV woman would, she found comfort with Rick's best friend. While the friend "helped" her through this traumatic time, things became a bit tricky when the husband returned to find that his wife was pregnant. At this point, it is unknown whether the husband or his friend is the father of the unborn child.

Lying About Paternity is a Type of Fraud

While I will not admit that I watched Jerry Springer, I have been told that the show often involved paternity disputes in which the mother was a million percent sure that her husband was the father because she swore that she had been faithful. Regretfully, DNA paternity tests often confirmed that the wife had been unfaithful and had also been lying to the husband about the possibility that the child could be another man's child.

Everyone can agree that lying is simply immoral, but the law has traditionally protected lying mother's in this situation. However, the Tennessee Supreme Court recently ruled that a father could sue his ex-wife as she had lied to him about the possibility that his son was the biological son of another man. In the case, the ex-wife told the father that there was no way that the son was not the biological son of the father as she denied having sex with any other person, which happened to be a lie. After the father and wife divorced, the father paid child support without objection for years, and the father paid support until the son actually moved in with the father. At some point, when the son was 15, the father became suspicious as to paternity, and a DNA test confirmed that the son was not the father's biological son. The father later sued his ex-wife for lying about the son's paternity, and the father won a $25,000.00 judgment against his ex-wife. The Tennessee Court  upheld the father's $25,000.00 judgment. The Court noted that the father was permitted to sue here because the lie about paternity was intentional, meaning the mother knew that an issue with regard to paternity was possible based upon her infidelity, and her steadfast denial of the possibility of the paternity issue was a fraud.

What Would Happen In Zombieland?

Even if a court system existed in the zombie-filled world of "The Walking Dead," Lori could avoid being sued by simply being honest and telling her husband that there could be an issue with regard to paternity. Lori would not be held accountable for this mistake because Rick knew about her relationship with Shane. Given the wide range of variables in these cases, it will be interesting to see how the court rules on such matters in the future. It will also be interesting to see how Pennsylvania courts deal with these issues as they arise.  I have been told quite frequently that I would not need to hire a State College lawyer and challenge the paternity of my children as they look just like me.  Poor kids.

2 Comments

How'd the court get around the presumption that a child born in wedlock is a child of the couple? Courts don't usually like to create orphans, even partially. I'll have to look up that case!

I also have to wonder about a father who would test his 15-year-old son to see if he was his progeny. That had to be traumatic for the boy. Fortunately, $25k should cover therapy...

It appears that this case was very fact sensitive. Because of the revelation, the son moved back with the mother and terminated the relationship with the father. I believe that by the time the suit was filed, the child was 18, so no future support was required from father. I agree that had the son been under 18, the court would not orphan the child and thereby cause the state to pay the child support. In the case, the $25,000.00 judgment was basically restitution, a refund of the support and costs of insurance over the years. At trial, the father had also received a judgment of $100,000.00 for the fraud itself, but the intermediate appellate court eliminated that judgment, and the father did not appeal that portion of the case to the highest court. Since he didn't appeal that issue, he obviously waived the right to litigate it before the Supreme Court of the state.

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