What happens when a parent lies to get child support?

When the parents of a minor child separate or divorce in Arizona, child support typically becomes part of the equation for the non-custodial parent. An interesting case from another state has raised important issues concerning the obligation to pay child support. It addresses situations where a parent fraudulently induces the other to pay child support under circumstances where none is required.

The couple married after the woman reportedly intentionally misrepresented to him that he was the father of her child. They subsequently divorced in 2001 after he discovered that the wife was having an affair with another man. During the course of divorce and child support proceedings, the man discovered the wife’s lie. He then sued to recover the monetary damages occasioned by paying child support based on the woman’s intentional misrepresentation.

The Tennessee trial court ruled that the man proved the woman had lied and awarded damages of almost $135,000 to reimburse him for child support, health insurance premiums and healthcare costs the man had paid subsequent to the divorce. Attorney fees and reimbursement for emotional distress were included in the damage award. An appeals court reversed the judgment, holding that it amounted to a “prohibited retroactive modification of a child support order.” However, Tennessee’s highest court reinstated the judgment, finding that the common law claim of intentional misrepresentation covered the allegations made by the former husband.

While the case applies to Tennessee law, the problems underlying an intentional misrepresentation for the purpose of receiving child support exist anywhere. One safeguard may be to demand a paternity test in appropriate circumstances. Nevertheless, when these types of issues arise in Arizona, those affected would likely gain by seeking assistance to confront the allegations and achieve a just result.

Source: Examiner.com, “Tenn. High Court rules woman owes damages for lying about fatherhood of child,” David Oatney, Oct. 2, 2012

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