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Dad wasn't dad after all, but still owes child support

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Unlike most duped ex-husbands in the US, Parker may still prevail in court. Last summer the Florida legislature passed a law that allows men to use newly discovered paternity evidence (like Parker's DNA test results) to overturn a court order to pay child support for someone else's child.

The June 2006 law is aimed at preventing the kind of outcome ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. The policy approach taken by the Florida Legislature stands in sharp contrast to the "policy considerations" cited by the state supreme court justices.

Supporters of the Florida law see it as a major step toward justice for deceived ex-husbands. Critics see it as a potential danger to the well-being of mothers and their vulnerable children.

In addition to Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Maryland, Alabama, Indiana, Virginia, Arizona, and Wyoming have laws allowing ex-husbands to overturn a child-support order when deception or fraud by an ex-wife is discovered, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. By contrast, most other states set a one- to four-year deadline for fathers to file lawsuits challenging paternity determinations.

The idea behind the deadline is that any action taken in a marriage breakup should be completed while the child is as young as possible to avoid a major disruption during the most formative years.

"We don't want a system where a child is 10 years old and you have people who come in and undo what has been put in place many years before," says Susan Paikin of the Center for the Support of Families in Silver Spring, Md.

Ms. Paikin says that it is up to the adults in the relationship to thoroughly investigate any paternity issues at the time of the divorce.

But fathers' rights advocates say that few husbands are aware of a paternity deadline and its legal implications. And many have no idea that their wives have been unfaithful.

In generations past such infidelity might have gone undetected. But the advent of DNA testing is changing that. It is giving new momentum to a debate over how best to provide for broken families.

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