Although it is quite rare, some fathers discover that they are genetically unrelated to their children – and sometimes this discovery only occurs after the “father” has provided thousands upon thousands of dollars in child support payments. For these fathers, the logical question is whether they will get their money back. The reimbursement of child support after misattributed paternity is an infrequent and controversial issue, but a few thinkers – and courts – have tackled it over the years. 

Man Learns He is Unrelated to His Four “Children” After Raising Them For 16 Years

On December 28th, Chinese media reported that a man had discovered that he had no biological relation to his four children. This news came after he had spent 16 years raising them as his own. An interview in Jiangxi Province shows the man in tears as he attempts to discuss his situation with reporters. Faced with this obvious evidence of infidelity, the man felt he had no choice but to pursue a divorce. 

In his divorce petition, he also requested “reimbursement” for all of the money he spent on his children over the years. The report goes on to mention an incident involving PTSD-inducing firework detonation in the family home – and it is unclear what will happen next in this interesting story. At the very least, the case highlights the fact that reimbursement of child support after misattributed paternity is a fairly common subject in courts around the world. 

Is There Any Hope of Reimbursement of Child Support?

The Chinese man might have asked for reimbursement of child support, but whether he will actually receive it is another matter altogether. The general consensus seems to be that if the husband willingly accepts his role as a father, he should pay child support. Many argue that “fatherhood” is a concept that goes beyond mere genetic similarity and that someone who acts like a father is a father – as far as the courts are concerned. 

However, courts do not always agree with this sentiment. In 2017, a Canadian man escaped further child support obligations after his wife’s infidelity was proven by a negative paternity test. He had spent the past three years raising a child that wasn’t his. In this situation, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that it would be unfair to force this man to continue paying child support for the next 15 years. 

According to a paper by the National Library of Medicine, the only acceptable reason to consider reimbursement is if the “father” remains distant from the child while paying child support. In this situation, the man does not “play the role” of a father – and he has no biological relation to the child. If the father meets these requirements, the paper concludes that it would at least be morally acceptable to pursue reimbursement of child support. 

The real question is whether these men ever get their money back. One father in Australia was almost successful in pursuing reimbursement, but he lost on appeal. On the other hand, the UK has seen a total of three successful petitions for reimbursement – and there was one successful case in France. The paper does not mention any successful reimbursement claims in the United States, however, and this should perhaps dissuade American fathers from going down this road.