Herald Sun

Man wants $30,000 child support back

By MARK DUNN
Herald Sun (Australia)
29may02

A VICTORIAN man is asking a court to order his former wife to repay $30,000 in child maintenance after DNA tests showed her son was not his.

The case, listed to be heard next month in the Family Court, is understood to be the first of its type.

The former police officer, believing the child was biologically his, paid maintenance for 14 years before DNA tests showed he was not the natural father.

His former wife has moved interstate with the child after long-running disputes about custody and access.

"This is not a money issue, it's the principle and if someone doesn't stand up it is just going to continue," the man said.

"I still call him a son and for all intents and purposes he still is my son . . . even though I've really lost contact with him now."

He said he felt betrayed by his ex-wife and had suffered both psychologically and financially.

He said he believed the boy's biological father died some years ago, an issue which had been raised with the boy.

Family Court lawyers yesterday said the case could set a precedent for duped fathers and children born before the Child Support Agency was established in 1989.

Previously the Family Court, rather than the Child Support Agency, set orders for child maintenance and has the power to rescind them or "discharge them retrospectively", lawyer Michael Taussig said.

"I'm sure the court has got the power, but it is discretionary power," Mr Taussig said.

"It's a very interesting case, although it is sad from the point of three people," he said.

In a separate case, the Family Court in Canberra recently ordered maintenance payments by a man for a child later found not to be his would go to future payments of another sibling who was the father's legitimate child.

Family law specialist Annemaree Lanteri said the court held children's welfare above all else in deciding cases and if repayment orders effected that welfare they would not be made.

"It has to consider in making an order if it is going to impact on the child," Ms Lanteri said.

But Lone Fathers Association president Barry Williams argued thousands of men were paying for children who were not their own.

"Repayments of this type are something we are pushing very hard for," Mr Williams said.

"If it is proven that men are not the fathers of children then the money should be paid back."

© 2002 Herald and Weekly Times