Price v. Price: Tennessee Court Declines to Require Child Support from Non-Biological Father

Husband and Wife married in 1989. During the marriage, Husband served in the United States Navy. He was on active duty from 1992 until 2005 and was stationed away from his family with only 1010760_30792274occasional visits home. While Husband was away, a male roommate lived in the family home. Wife gave birth to two children who are the subjects of this litigation. Both children were born during the parties’ marriage.

In 2001, Husband had a DNA test performed to determine if the older child was his biological child. The test indicated that Husband was not the child’s biological father, which led the Husband to file for divorce. However, Husband did not see the divorce through to completion at that time.

In 2011, Husband filed for divorce again, asserting that he was not the biological father of the two minor children at issue, and he sought a DNA testing for the younger child. Wife admitted that Husband is not the biological father of the minor children, but she alleged that Husband had signed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity for each child. Wife also provided proof that he was listed on each child’s birth certificate as the father.

Despite the Wife’s objection, the trial court ordered DNA testing. The tests confirmed that Husband was not the biological father of either child.

At trial, both parties admitted that Husband held the children out as his own. For example, Husband listed the children as “children/dependents” in the military personnel system, and he lived in the family home with the Wife and children from 2005 until 2011. The Wife also testified that the older child referred to her Husband as “Dad”.

The trial court found that there were no minor children of the parties, citing the DNA results. As a result, the trial court held that the Husband had no legal obligation to support the children.

Wife appealed.

A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity is a creature of Tennessee statutes, a mechanism created by the Tennessee Legislature to establish paternity without court intervention. A Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity permits the entry of a child support order without a paternity proceeding. The Court found no Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity in the record for this case, and there was nothing to indicate that Husband had ever executed any such document. The only documents provided were the children’s birth certificates, which listed the Husband as father of each child, but did not include Husband’s signature.

In this case, the Wife tried to impose a child support obligation on her Husband, a man known not to be the biological father of either child. Tennessee laws aim to require biological fathers to support children. State ex rel. Dancy v. King, No. W2010-00934-COA-R3-JV (2011), established that, “Tennessee law strongly favors requiring biological parents to bear responsibility for their own children, and [] this policy also favors relieving putative fathers of the burden of supporting children who have been shown, through conclusive evidence such as DNA testing, not to be their natural offspring.” Furthermore, Braun v. Braun (2012 WL 4563551) establishes that, “Tennessee does not provide for the imposition of a child support obligation upon an individual unless that person has a duty to support his or her natural or adopted child.”

In the absence of a formal adoption, a man is not obligated to support a child when it is shown by clear, strong, and convincing evidence that he is not the biological parent of the child.

If your spouse has conceived children during your marriage that are not your biological children, contact our office immediately to protect your rights in a divorce action. Call today to schedule your free consultation.

Our office handles Tennessee divorce and Tennessee child support issues in the following Tennessee counties: Davidson County, Tennessee; Williamson County, Tennessee; Maury County, Tennessee; Rutherford County, Tennessee; Cheatham County, Tennessee; Dickson County, Tennessee; Sumner County, Tennessee; Wilson County, Tennessee; and Montgomery County, Tennessee.

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