New Oklahoma Parentage Law to Take Effect
Oklahoma’s new paternity law now allows fathers, mothers, and children to challenge paternity any time before a child turns 18, if fraud has been committed. In the past, paternity could only be challenged:
Two years after a child's birth, if the child had a presumed father, or
Two years after the acknowledgment of paternity was signed, if a father had signed an acknowledgment of paternity.
The law will take effect on November 1. But first, a bit of background:
In 2011, Thomas Coleman’s girlfriend, Marisa Alarcon, became pregnant. After Thomas learned that Marisa was pregnant, he married Marisa, and she gave birth to the child. Later, however, Thomas took a DNA test and learned that he was not actually the child’s father.
Three and a half years after the child was born, Thomas filed for divorce from Marisa. In the divorce proceeding, Thomas argued that he should not have to pay any child support to Marisa, because her child was not his. The judge, however, ordered Thomas to pay child support anyway. The judge pointed out, that, Oklahoma law at the time said that if a child had a “presumed father”, then any court action challenging paternity had to be filed before the child was two years old. Because Thomas did not file for divorce until the child was three-and-a-half, Thomas had to pay child support anyway, even though a DNA test had proven that Thomas was not the child’s father.
This case generated a large amount of public outrage, and the legislature decided to change the law.
New law in effect
Under the new law, if fraud can be proven, paternity may be challenged anytime before a child turns 18. The procedure is as follows:
The child, the mother, a man whose paternity of the child is to be adjudicated, or Oklahoma DHS, may challenge the paternity of a child, under certain circumstances.
If the child has a “presumed father”, and no fraud has been committed, then anyone who wants to challenge paternity must file the challenge in court within two years of the birth of the child. (Click here to find out when a child has a “presumed father”.)
If a man has signed an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” on a form provided by DHS, and no fraud has been committed, then, anyone who wants to challenge paternity must file the challenge in court within two years after the acknowledgment of paternity is signed.
To challenge paternity after the child is two years old (or more than two years after the acknowledgment is signed) the challenger must prove that there has been fraud. “Fraud” is defined as “an intentional misrepresentation of a material fact that could not have been discovered with reasonable diligence and was reasonably relied upon.” The challenger must prove fraud by clear and convincing evidence.
If a judge finds that fraud has been committed, the judge must then hold a “best interests” hearing to determine whether it is in the best interests of the child to order a DNA test.
If the judge decides that a DNA test is in the best interests of the child, then the judge will order a DNA test. The person challenging parentage must pay for the DNA test.
If the DNA test proves that the presumed or acknowledged father is not actually the father, the judge then must sign an “order of non-parentage.” The order of non-parentage will rule that the presumed or acknowledged father is not the father.
If the judge signs an order of non-parentage, the judge must also order the state health department to change the child’s birth certificate.
If you have been the victim of paternity fraud, I would encourage you to take advantage of this law and file a challenge in court. As Josh West, the state representative who sponsored this legislation, said, “Fraud in any form should not be tolerated. If a man has raised a child and wants to continue paying support for that child, that is fine. But if fraud occurs and a man is told he is a father when he is not, he should be freed from that obligation. This bill also allows men who may not know they are a father to choose be more actively involved in their child’s life if paternity is proven after the two-year limit.”
NOTE: This post only scratches the surface of Oklahoma parentage law. Oklahoma parentage law has numerous exceptions that this post does not discuss. If you are considering filing a paternity challenge, it would be wise to consult an attorney.