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TX men seek help after paternity fraud law

A Texas law that allows men who believe they are the victims of paternity fraud to try to legally terminate their future child support obligations has given dozens of men the opportunity to have their day in court, according to the Beaumont Enterprise.

Before the legislation was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry on May 12, men could only ask for a DNA test before they were legally named the father of the child. If they gave up that right before appearing before a judge and being legally declared the father, it was almost impossible for men to challenge their child support obligations, even if a later paternity test proved he was not the father.

With the passage of SB 785, men who have been legally named as a child’s father can challenge paternity in court. A number of practicing attorneys in Beaumont, told the newspaper they have been contacted by about 270 people since the bill was passed regarding paternity fraud cases.

The law allows men who want to challenge paternity to file a petition and then attend a court hearing to determine whether there is proof to support his claim and take a court-ordered DNA test. If the test determines he is not the child’s biological father he will not have to pay future child support.

Other states have also taken steps to tackle paternity fraud. The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a man who claims he was tricked into supporting a child that was not biologically his own. The ruling could potentially change the way paternity fraud is legally addressed in the state.

Single dad households on the rise in US

While most single-parent households in the U.S. are primarily lead by women, there is a rapidly increasing number of single fathers in the nation who are juggling the responsibilities of working and raising a child on their own, according to the Contra Costa Times.

Although 2009 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau reports that only 17.4 percent of custodial parents in the nation were men, the number is steadily rising. For instance, the newspaper reports that the number of single dads has increased 28 percent over the past decade while the number of single mothers declined for the first time since 1970.

“Many years ago, family courts would be reticent to award custody to the father even in the face of the mother having some issues,” Hans Johnson, of the Public Policy Institute of California, told the newspaper. “Today, fathers are expected to take on more child-rearing responsibilities than they were 30 years ago.”

In addition, a 2006 survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers members found that 22 percent of attorneys noticed an increase in cases where a father wins sole child custody, while none reported noticing a similar growth among mothers.

Some states have instituted new policies encouraging 50-50 child custody. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam recently signed legislation that requires family court judges to make custody decisions that maximize the presence of both parents in a child’s life.

Haslam signs Tennessee child custody bill

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that will require judges to consider how to maximize both parents involvement in their child’s life when making custody decisions, reported The Associated Press.

While other factors will be considered as well, the media outlet said the requirement may lead some judges to increase visitation time and designate equal 50-50 custody more often. Supporters of the legislation say judges should be presented with the tools needed to do what is in the best interest of a child, according to the AP.

The law will only apply to new custody cases. The source said parents under older court orders will have to demonstrate a considerable change in circumstances to alter their visitation and custody schedules.

The legislation passed 92-0 in the state House of Representatives and 19-9 in the Senate. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga.

The approval comes amidst a series of family law proposals in Tennessee. The state Supreme Court is set to decide a case that could determine how alimony is awarded between a divorced couple, in addition to another case pertaining to paternity fraud.

Tenn. Supreme Court to tackle paternity fraud

The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could decide if a man has legal grounds to sue for being tricked into supporting a child that is not biologically his, according to The Associated Press.

The case involves a divorced couple from Maury County. The ex-husband, Chadwick Craig, sued his former wife for fraud in 2008 after discovering that he was not the biological father of their teenage son. In the suit, Craig claimed he had married the woman, worked a job he didn’t want and paid thousands in child support because he believed he was the father. In addition, Craig said he underwent a vasectomy, which he says he would not have done if he had known he did not have any biological children, reported the AP.

Craig was awarded $26,000 for child support and medical expenses. Although he was awarded $100,000 for emotional distress, the news source said the decision was struck down in appeals court.

The case may be the first time a state Supreme Court tackles the issue of whether paternity fraud is grounds for a lawsuit, according to the report.

Tennessee’s highest court recently heard another case pertaining to family law. The court will soon decide on a lawsuit that could alter how alimony is awarded to divorced couples.

Tennessee court could decide future of alimony

A Tennessee woman who makes $72,000 per year claims she deserves $15,000 a year in alimony, in a case being argued in front of the state’s Supreme Court.

Johanna Gonsewski and Craig Gonsewski, who makes $137,000 a year, were divorced in 2009 and Sumner County Judge Tom Gray ruled that Johanna was not entitled to alimony, reports the Tennessean.

However, a Court of Appeals determined that the mother of two adult children deserved $1,250 a month from her ex-husband.

Craig Gonsewski appealed that decision and now the case is in front of the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Kelly Murray of Vanderbilt Law School told the news source that it was “interesting” that a woman who has her own substantial income was awarded alimony.

“I think what’s interesting is that she is a working spouse and not a stay-at-home spouse,” Murray said. “This is a woman who has a good career.”

The news provider said that the case could determine the future of how alimony is awarded in the state.

The Associated Press reported that the couple had been married for 21 years.