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Unusual appeals court ruling removes child support obligation

Texas readers may be aware of a recent appellate court ruling in a neighboring state. The ruling is unusual, in that it removes one man's obligation to provide child support for his biological offspring. Unlike the vast majority of court actions that protect a custodial parent's right to receive support for their child or children, the recent ruling will allow the man to move forward free from any obligation to pay for the care of his child.

The case centers on a father who lost his parental rights in a court action dated in 1993. The man and his former wife had two children together, but ended their relationship in a 1990 divorce. Years later, the mother filed suit to have her ex-husband's parental rights terminated, citing claims of physical and mental abuse.

The court agreed, and even though he was not present in court, the man's parental rights were terminated. The mother continued to press for past due child support, and received an order for the same. In a 2010 hearing, a court ordered that the father be made to pay over $117,000 in past due child support. He appealed, claiming that when his parental rights were terminated, so were his parental obligations.

The higher court in New Mexico agreed with this argument and overturned the lower court's ruling. As a result, the man can now move forward in life not only free from any obligation to pay the amount past due, but also free from fear of the punitive ramifications of failure to pay court-ordered child support. While this is an unusual case, the outcome may be of interest to some Texas parents who have faced a similar loss of their parental rights.

Source: abqjournal.com, "Court: Father doesn't have to pay child support," Scott Sandlin, July 31, 2013

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