Florida's New Paternity Law Gets Tested

By Victoria Langley
December 7, 2006 6:50 pm

Men everywhere may be relieved, but there are others who say the law just victimizes the kids.

Bobby Rhames hugged his wife and attorney in relief after a judge agreed he should not have to keep paying child support to his ex-girlfriend for a girl who is not his daughter.
Rhames found out when Amber was nine years old that she was not his, and has been fighting to stop paying ever since.

Bobby Thames, plaintiff, said, "It’s kinda sad that it took 14 years to get justice in this. I’m relieved, it’s nice."

Under the old law, a man who was determined to be the father had to keep paying child support even if DNA later proved he wasn’t. Opponents including Rhames took their case to the Legislature, successfully arguing the old system unfairly punished the wrong guy, and any new family he might start.

But for every man who this law has the potential to help, there is someone else who could be hurt, the child at the center of the case.

Amber is now 15. Her mother Connie Miranda maintains she made an honest mistake when she named Rhames the father, not realizing at the time she was already pregnant by someone else, but her heart aches for Amber.

Connie Miranda said, "He raised her for nine years and when the paternity test came back, he quit having anything to do with her. Now he’s using the law to let her know that he’s not going to have anything to do with her."

Rhames is one of the first men to test the new law in court, but many are expected to follow.

Under Florida’s new child support law, a man can challenge his paternity finding in court if he has a recent DNA test and is up-to-date on his child support payments, but a judge will still make decisions on a case-by-case basis.