Court backs deadline for challenging paternity

Published February 2, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Ex-husbands must file challenges alleging that their former wives misrepresented their paternity within a year after being divorced, the Florida Supreme Court said Thursday, but a new law may limit the decision's affect.

The Broward County case predated a 2006 law that allows paternity issues to be reopened on the basis of new evidence such as DNA tests. The statute, though, applies only to future child support and does not permit compensation for payments already made.

The Supreme Court did not consider whether the new law will give Richard Edward Parker and other men who were divorced before it went into effect on June 20 a new opportunity to file paternity challenges after a year has passed.

Parker's lawyer, Scott Lazar, said, "My client has to continue paying child support for a child that is proven through DNA is not his."

Parker's ex-wife, Margaret J. Parker, had represented to her husband and the trial court that he was the father of the child she had two years after they were married in 1996. The final judgment on Dec. 7, 2001, acknowledged Richard Parker was the father.

In 2001, Margaret Parker filed a motion for contempt and asked a judge to enforce the child support order. Her ex-husband responded by getting a DNA test that indicated he was not the father. He then sued his former wife, seeking compensatory damages for past and future child support obligations.

The trial judge dismissed his lawsuit, and the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld that decision. The Supreme Court sustained the 4th District's ruling.