Retroactive child support back to date of child’s birth.

This Court of Appeals case was filed on May 25, 2017. Parrish v. Griggs, (Tenn.Ct.App).

This case involves a petition to establish paternity, which was filed when the child was a teenager.

DNA testing established the father as the biological father of the child. Father claimed that shortly after the child’s birth the mother informed him that he was not the child’s father.

The Juvenile Court for Hardin County entered an order establishing the father’s parentage and naming the mother primary residential parent. The court also ordered father to pay child support retroactive to the date of the child’s birth.

The father argued that the Juvenile Court abused its discretion by denying his request for deviation from the presumption that he was responsible for child support back to the date of the child’s birth. The fathers argument was based primarily on his claim that in October 2000, the mother informed him that he was not the child’s father. He also argued that the Juvenile Court failed to address the equities between the parties.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the Juvenile Court’s judgment. Tenn. Code Ann. CA 36-2-311(a)(11)(A) only contemplates excusing retroactive child support to date of birth in circumstances were father was not aware of the existence of the child.

The proof in this case showed that the father clearly knew about the child’s existence and his possible parentage. The father had been in a relationship with mother for five (5) years, and he was frequently visiting mother in Tennessee around time the child was conceived.  In the months following the child’s birth both parents held the child out as father’s child. Father admitted there was possibility child was his, but he never went to court to establish paternity.

Notably, if this litigation had been filed after July 1, 2017, the recent amendments to Tenn. Code Ann. 36-2-311 could have limited retroactive child support to five (5) years in the absence of good cause to order otherwise.

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