A man is battling in court that mandates him to pay $65,000 for child support for a child whom not his.
The court ruled that a Texas man is responsible for more than $65,000 in child support despite not being the biological father of the child in question.
Gabriel Cornejo, a father of three who also raises two of his brother’s children, found out last year that he was liable for tens of thousands in unpaid child support payments. The child belongs to his ex-girlfriend, who submitted the paternity suit in 2003 without his knowledge, according to KTRK. He says he has only met the child once.
He soon met the minor for the first and only time — describing her as a “wonderful girl” — but after taking a DNA test, learned she was not his after all.
Despite not being the child’s father, he is still on the hook for payment because he didn’t contest the suit when it was filed nearly 15 years ago.
“I never thought in my whole life I would have to defend myself or something that I am innocent of,” he said.
Texas’ family code, chapter 161, states that even if one is not the biological father, they still owe support payments that accrued before the paternity test proved otherwise. In Cornejo’s case, that amounts to some $65,000.
His ex-girlfriend’s attorney, Carel Stith, claimed that money was taken out of Cornejo’s paycheck several years ago and he didn’t contest it, and that in itself can satisfy a court argument that he should have handled the matter long ago.
“There can be consequences, even if you don’t do anything,” Stith told local news.
“They say he should have fought back then and he failed to do so,” said Cornejo’s lawyer, Cheryl Coleman, told KTRK. “But how can you fight something you don’t know anything about?”
Cornejo and his attorney, Cheryl Coleman, must now persuade a judge to reopen the case — as the original court order cannot be amended. If that doesn’t happen, he must pay up or face time behind bars.
The case is due back in court next month.