NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

DNA Testing And Child Support

April 24, 2000

Should a woman have the legal right to obtain child support payments from her ex-husband if DNA tests reveal he is not the father of her child? Paternity laws requiring such payments are being challenged in Ohio before a state senate subcommittee and in other states by angry men armed with DNA test results.

A mother can raise the issue of paternity to contest a man's parental rights, but courts can force a man to make child support payments, even if he has genetic proof he is not the biological father.

  • In most states, courts rely on a 500-year-old English common-law doctrine which presumes the man is the legal father of any child born to his wife during their marriage.
  • The law was designed to protect children because in medieval England a child shown to be illegitimate would have virtually no rights.
  • But during the past 10 years, DNA-based paternity testing has more than tripled to an estimated 247,000 cases in 1998.

Ohio law allows a man one year to petition the court to correct a paternity ruling. But if the man does not find out before then that he is not the father of a child, he must continue support payments even though DNA evidence is on his side.

Source: Associated Press, "Paternal Support Challenge Mounted," Washington Times, April 24, 2000.


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