In Georgia, a court may require a purported father to pay child support, even if he is found not to be the biological parent. This may occur only under two very limited circumstances: 1) If the man executes a written agreement promising to provide support for a child; or 2) Under the doctrine of promissory estoppel recognized in Georgia.
According to the Supreme Court of Georgia, a person who executes a written agreement promising to provide support for a child is bound by the terms of the agreement to do so, notwithstanding the fact that he is not the biological parent of the child. See Brannon v. Brannon, 261 Ga. 565 (1991). A court may still require a man to continue paying child support, despite the fact that he is not the child’s biological father, even if there is no written agreement to do so. In the case of Wright v. Newman, the Georgia Supreme Court determined that the doctrine of promissory estoppel applies in the context of child support, but only under certain circumstances. Wright v. Newman, 266 Ga. 519 (1996). See also Mooney v. Mooney, 245 Ga. App 780 and O.C.G.A. § 13-3-44.
The circumstances under which a man may be held to pay child support, even though he is not the biological father, are as follows:
- The man promised the child and the child’s mother that he would assume all obligations and responsibilities of fatherhood, including providing support;
- The man held himself out as the father of the child and allowed the child to consider him as the biological father; and
- The mother and child relied upon the promise to their detriment (one important factor here would be if the mother did not seek child support from the biological father based upon a reliance on the promise made by the man that he would support the child).
If you believe that the doctrine of promissory estoppel may apply in your case, or if you have questions regarding the paternity of your child or children, contact an Atlanta divorce attorney today to ensure that you do not commit to obligations you are not legally responsible for.