Baby Daddy Biden — Financial and Legal Implications of Fatherhood in Texas
by Sally Pretorius as published by Texas Lawyer
Hunter Biden, a.k.a. Baby Daddy Biden, has found himself in a tricky situation—a paternity action. Last May, Lunden Alexis Roberts filed a paternity action in Arkansas requesting that the court find that Biden is the father of her son (born in November 2018) and requesting child support. The court ordered DNA testing and found that Biden was the father of the now 18-month-old child. Since that finding, Roberts has been requesting financial information from Biden in order to establish child support (these requests have raised eyebrows given the current political climate). Roberts’s attorneys filed a motion asking the court to find Biden in contempt of court for not providing the requested financial information. Then, news surfaced in late January that Hunter Biden agreed to pay retroactive child support back to November 2018 and pay Roberts’s attorney’s fees in order to avoid a contempt hearing.
So, what does this mean for the Baby Daddies of Texas? If you father a child in Texas, do you have to pay retroactive child support and attorney’s fees? Do you have to turn over your financial information?
First and foremost, in Texas, if you have had relations with a woman, and she thinks that you may be the father of her child, or if you think you may be the father of a child, the first step is to file a Suit to Establish Parentage. A Texas court does not have jurisdiction (meaning the ability to make a decision in your case) in a paternity case until the child is actually born. Once a Suit to Establish Parentage is filed, the court will then likely order (or the parties can agree to) a DNA test to be performed by a reputable facility. The mother will be ordered to take the baby to the facility and the suspected father will be ordered to appear at the facility and give a DNA sample. The testing facility will then release the results to the parties, the court, and their attorneys.
If the DNA test reveals that a man is not the father, the court will enter an order confirming that he is not the father. If the DNA test confirms paternity, however, the court will proceed with establishing rights and duties, possession and access, and child support.
In Texas, child support is based on guidelines set forth by the law and calculated by multiplying a party’s net resources (as defined by the Texas Family Code) by a percentage that is assigned based on the number of children for whom the obligor (the person paying child support) currently owes a duty of support and how many children are before the court. This is referred to as “guideline child support.” While the court has discretion to go above guideline child support, in most instances a party’s net resources are capped at $8,550.00 for purposes of calculating that support (not including an obligor’s statutory obligation to provide health insurance for the child and a portion of unreimbursed medical expenses). In order to determine a party’s “net resources,” another party is permitted to request relevant financial information—including paystubs, tax returns, bank statements, employment contracts, financial information sheets and other documents— as part of the legal discovery process. It appears that in Hunter Biden’s case, he did not want to produce the requested financial information (for obvious political reasons). Because he did not want to produce it, Roberts’s attorneys requested that the court reprimand him and force him to produce it so they could properly calculate child support. The same risk applies Texas. If a party does produce the requested information, and the court finds that he or she needs to produce it, the court can hold that party in contempt of court (reprimands to include jail time) and order the party to pay monetary sanctions.
Under Texas law, a court can order a party to pay retroactive child support for a child for up to four years prior to the filing of a paternity action (this period can be rebutted based on varioius factors). So, if Hunter Biden had been subject to Texas law, the court could have ordered him to pay guideline child support dating back to the birth of the child. In addition to retroactive child support, a court can order a parent to pay for a portion of prenatal expenses (which can top $10,000.00). Child support obligations typically continue until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later.
In sum, the financial obligations that come with being a Baby Daddy are not to be taken lightly. Whether you are Hunter Biden or the average person, those obligations can mean disclosure of financial information, 18 years of monthly child support obligations, payment of prenatal expenses, and medical support for a kiddo.