January 3, 2014. So what happens if you find out after a romantic split that you have a baby or even a teenager?

Iowa law allows the collection of past child support and for reimbursement of expenses incurred by the mother in connection with prenatal care, the birth of the child, and postnatal care of the child and the mother. This support can extend back to the child’s birth. Are you required to pay thousands of dollars of back child support when you did not even know the child existed? There are some defenses available in this situation.

The legal term “equitable estoppel” is a defense that prevents one party who has made certain representations from taking unfair advantage of another when the party who made the representations changes its position to the prejudice of the party who relied upon the representations. An example of this situation would be if you learn of the child’s birth and the mother of the child informs you the father is someone else and then years later, files a request in court for you to pay child support.

The next defense is “estoppel by acquiescence.” This means that the person who knew or ought to know of an entitlement to enforce a right and neglects to do so for such time as would imply an intention to waive or abandon the right. In lay terms, it’s a waiver theory. This is a situation where the mother of the child may tell you that you do not have to pay child support if you do not exercise visitation. Then, after some time, demands child support. The court in this situation noted that the agreement between the parents went against public policy, but still accepted the defense.

The last defense is “laches.” This means that an unreasonable delay in asserting a right caused a disadvantage or prejudice to another. Here, a party must show prejudice. For example, if 17 years after the child was born, the mother files an action asking for support; it is likely the court would recognize the laches defense.

The person asserting the defense has the burden to prove the defense. If you find yourself in this situation, seek legal advice. Remember, future child support may be ordered in all of these situations; these defenses apply only to back child support.

See next week’s blog: How do you establish paternity, custody and visitation? Also, to learn more about Goosmann Law's family law services contact us at info@goosmannlaw.com or call 712.226.4000.

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