In Iowa, both parents have the responsibility to provide financial support for their children. When parents are unwed or terminating their marriage, the court may order one parent to make support payments to the other. In matters where the parents were not married when the child was born, the mother is considered the legal parent (Iowa Code § 600B.40), and she may request that the father be ordered to pay a reasonable amount of support for their child (Iowa Code § 600B.2).
Unfortunately, you may be in a situation where your child's dad might deny that he is the legal father. Although he may have been ordered by the court to make support payments to you, he might willfully fail to comply. Doing this is a direct violation of the court's orders and is unlawful. You may be able to take legal action to enforce the support payments.
The only way your child's father may legally stop making child support payments is if the court disestablishes paternity – finds that he is not the legal father. If the court decides such, your child's father may stop fulfilling support obligations. There are a couple of different ways he could disestablish paternity. The method he pursues depends on the specific situation.
Disestablishing Paternity Through Divorce
If you and your child's father were married and are now pursuing a divorce, paternity may be disestablished during this process.
To disestablish paternity during the divorce, you and your child's father must submit a petition to the court. You both must agree that he is not your child's biological father.
Disestablishing Paternity Through a Court Order
The other method for disestablishing paternity is through a court order. Your child's father may pursue this avenue if you had your child out of wedlock and either signed an affidavit of paternity or established paternity by a court order.
If you had initially gone to court to have your child's dad recognized as their legal father and you were ordered to genetic or blood testing, your child's dad has 20 days to challenge the results of the test. The court may grant his request if it determines that he provided clear and convincing evidence that he is not the child's biological father.
Whether paternity was established through an affidavit or court order, the court may require that additional genetics or blood testing be conducted. Also, your child's father must submit the petition before your child reaches 18 years of age.
Effects When Paternity Is Disestablished
If the court finds that your child's dad is not the father, paternity will be overcome. That means that your child's dad will not be considered their legal father.
If such happens, the court may order that:
- Any future support payments be stopped: He will no longer be required to make payments to you; and
- Any outstanding support payments be satisfied: If he stopped making payments before the order is granted, he is required to pay you what was due in the months prior to paternity being disestablished.
Also note that when paternity is overcome, your child's dad may not have custody or visitation rights.
Effects When Paternity Is Not Overcome
If paternity is not disestablished, your child's dad will still be required to make support payments. Additionally, he must satisfy any months he did not pay.
Remedies When Support Was Unlawfully Stopped
Because child support is court-ordered, you do have legal recourse if it was stopped unlawfully. You can file a motion for enforcement with the court.
If the court grants your request, support may be enforced in various ways, such as:
- Wage deduction
- Tax intercepts
- License suspension or revocation
- Passport restriction
- Contempt of court
If your child's father has stopped paying child support without disestablishing paternity, speak with our West Des Moines attorneys at The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw by calling (515) 200-7571 or submitting an online contact form. We'll discuss your legal options and provide the counsel you need to protect the best interests of you and your child.