In Georgia, a man recently got a bit of bittersweet justice in family court. Kenneth Samuels discovered that the child that he believed for 11 years that he had fathered was not his biological child. Family Court Judge David Roper felt badly about the situation and noted that since Samuels was not actually the child's father, he is entitled to a refund of all child support payments he had made to the mother of the child.
The Augusta Chronicle reports that the child's mother, Jamie Hope, and the child's biological father, Oba Wallace, have been ordered to repay Samuels the $14,460 in child support that he had paid since 1997.
In April 1997, Hope visited Child Support Services in Georgia and opened a case naming Samuels as the father of her child. Samuels did not doubt that he had fathered the child so he signed the birth certificate and consented to an order to begin paying child support.
Last summer Oba Wallace appeared in family court and told the judge that several people had told him that Hope's child looked like him. Wallace also said that the child called him "daddy" when she saw him. Wallace told Hope that he would financially support the child if she was his biological daughter and then filed a petition with the family court to legally establish paternity.
Judge Roper signed the order to establish paternity, but had questions for Hope and Wallace. Roper wanted to know when they first suspected that the child was Wallace's and not Samuel's biological offspring. Hope and Wallace eventually admitted that they realized that Wallace was likely the child's father when she was about 2 years old. Samuels never knew that there was any possibility that he was not the child's father.
When opening the child support case, Hope signed a sworn statement indicating that Samuels was the father of her child. Judge Roper told Hope that her action was fraudulent and that she would be required to return all of the money that Samuels had paid in child support payments. Roper also decided that Wallace was also responsible for repaying Samuels for the child support payments.
Recently a similar case regarding paternity of a child was heard in Trenton, New Jersey and turned out quite differently. Newsday reported that a man who has been determined not to be the biological parent of a 10-year-old child has been ordered by the appeals court to continue making child support payments. The man discovered in 2006 that he had not fathered the child, but the court will not allow him to stop paying child support or even reduce the amount of the payments.
Mistakes about paternity are often made, and sometimes never discovered. In Tennessee, new legislation has been introduced that would require paternity testing before the father's name can be put on the birth certificate. This law does not distinguish between single mothers and married couples, and therefore if passed, all babies born would require DNA testing to establish paternity to ensure that they are supported by the appropriate person.