A man ordered by Iowa’s Department of Human Resources to pay child support for his long-estranged wife’s baby with another guy is off the hook.
Joe Vandusen and his wife have been separated for about 15 years, but never divorced. Under the law in Iowa and most other states, the husband is automatically presumed to be the legal father of any child born while a marriage is in effect and is financially responsible for the upkeep of that child. Vandusen, 46, was not the biological father of the one-year-old child.
The Davenport, Iowa, resident was willing to take a paternity test, but state officials indicated that DNA results were irrelevant under prevailing law in the Hawkeye State. “Vandusen was flabbergasted to find out paternity didn’t make a difference, according to state law which requires the legal husband of the mother be liable for child support,” the New York Daily News reported at the time in the case that made national headlines.
Vandusen originally lacked the funds to pay for a lawyer to challenge the child support order, but a Facebook post and then a crowdsourcing page got the ball rolling. “A local attorney, Jennifer Olsen, took his case and filed papers to de-establish his paternity. A simple DNA test is not enough to exonerate a man if he is the husband,” NBC affiliate WHO-TV reported.
According to the Des Moines Register, the man’s divorce papers have resolved the matter in his favor.
“Last week, Vandusen successfully filed for divorce, his attorney, Jennifer Olsen, told The Des Moines Register on Monday. Part of the divorce filing included paperwork to disestablish Vandusen’s legal paternity over his now-ex-wife’s child… The divorce filing last week included a decree to disestablish Vandusen’s role as the child’s legal father, Olsen said. That’s not a common part of filing for divorce, she said, but she has worked with it in other cases.”
Separate media accounts indicate that Vandusen also successfully won an appeal of the child support order with the state Department of Human Resources after about an eight-month legal struggle with the agency’s child support recovery unit.
“Now that it’s all said and done with, I’m very, very happy with the outcome. (It’s) big-time relief. I thought I was going to end up having to pay child support on someone else’s child for 18 years,” Vandusen remarked after he was cleared of having to pony up child support for someone else’s child.
Vandusen reportedly has two biological kids and helps support his girlfriend’s two children. Although back to work now, he had also been laid off from his job around the time the child support order arrived in his mailbox in February or March, which he originally thought under the circumstances was a joke.
Vandusen says that the fight against the child support law as currently constituted will continue. Working with advocacy groups, Vandusen now apparently wants to help get the law about the presumption of paternity changed in Iowa and perhaps in other jurisdictions, Fox59 explained.
“In my opinion, that can all be fixed with a simple DNA test, but the law doesn’t recognize that. That’s the problem. There are probably well over 100,000 men just like me going through the same thing, I think from here, I’m going to get with these organizations that have contacted me throughout my ordeal and I think we’re going to fight. I want this law changed. My case may be over, I’m not done fighting. There’s a lot of guys there just like me.”
He noted that his ex-wife was cooperative in contesting the Iowa law about child support.
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