Changing Paternity Laws

Changing Paternity Laws

A breakthrough case pending has divorce attorneys nationwide wondering if paternity laws are on the brink of change.

Pfizer executive Jonathan Sporn is fighting for custody of his recently deceased girlfriend’s six-month-old son. Although Sporn is not the biological father of the child, New York courts are strongly considering granting him custody.

In Oklahoma, there are many presumptions of paternity depending both on biology and marital status. If a wife gives birth during marriage (or 7 months thereafter), the husband is presumed to be the father of the child. This presumption can be overcome by affirmative proof on the part of the husband that the child is not biologically his. This proof must be offered within 2 years according to the statute, otherwise the husband is legally obligated to that child for child support purposes either until the child reaches the age of 20 or graduates high school, regardless of any evidence stating that it is biologically not his child once the two years have expired.

The presumption can provide some benefits to unsuspecting men, such as those who are not informed of a wife’s marital status, and who often are not informed of her pregnancy and are then served with a lawsuit claiming that they owe back child support for a child they never knew existed. In those cases, it is the wife’s husband who is legally responsible for the child. The other side of the coin is disconcerting; men who are the biological fathers of children born in wedlock and who want rights to that child, such as custody or visitation, are left with little remedy unless a DNA test can be timely provided (within the 2 years after the child is born).

In Sporn’s case, the child was intended to be between he and his girlfriend, although the boy was born through artificial insemination. This is just one example of how the law functions in regard to non-biological fathers, and the burdens they may have to overcome in order to gain rights to the children they love. The lesson to be learned here is to always act quickly to establish and protect one’s rights concerning children.