Herald Sun

Duped dad wins $70,000 payout

By JEREMY KELLY
Herald Sun (Australia)
23nov02

A MAN has successfully sued his ex-wife after learning he was not the father of two of the estranged couple's three children.

In a landmark legal battle, a County Court judge yesterday ordered the woman to pay her former husband $70,000 compensation for pain and suffering, and loss of income.

But Judge John Hanlon said the payout was not punishment for the woman being unfaithful, adding he sympathised with the predicament the woman had been put in.

During the civil hearing, the man told the court he always believed he was the father of the children and had watched all of them being born.

The court was told the mother, now 36, started an affair after the couple had their first child. She later gave birth to two other children.

The court had heard the man cared for and loved the children as his own.

But paternity tests in 2000 confirmed the two youngest children were not the husband's, and in fact had been fathered by the man with whom she was having an affair.

The husband suffered anxiety and a psychiatric illness and has been unable to work since he found out the truth about the children.

He sued the woman for $400,000, alleging she was also liable for money he had spent on food and clothes for the two children.

"I took them to Macca's or KFC. I took them to the football," the man told the court.

The man's barrister, Paul Bingham, told the court his client was deceived by the woman in a nine-year fraud.

Yesterday Judge Hanlon only awarded compensation for pain and suffering and loss of income. The judge found the woman had either lied knowingly or been reckless when she signed birth certificates for the two children.

"She found herself in a position where she had a choice of endeavoring to save her marriage or face the enormous uproar . . . (of telling him the truth)," Judge Hanlon said.

In the end, she lost out on both counts.

The couple split up in the early 1990s. The man has not seen the children since 1999 when he learned he was not the two children's father.

Outside court, the man would not comment on the outcome, but his lawyer said the case had broken new ground.

"This case is an example where the courts have been prepared to extend the laws of deceit to cover situations where a male is led to believe that he is the biological parent of a child and, of course, that has both financial and emotional repercussions," she said.

© 2002 Herald and Weekly Times