A Texas man is battling a court order that mandates he must pay tens of thousands in child support for a child that he did not biologically father and who he met only once.
In 2003, a child support court in Texas ruled that Gabriel Cornejo, 45, had to pay child support to his ex-girlfriend who had recently given birth because she vowed that there was no way he wasn’t the rightful dad.
Cornejo, who is currently raising three children of his own and two nephews, claimed that he was not made aware of this and only found out about the child support payments last year when a deputy served him court papers claiming that the state of Texas lists him as having another child. 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.
Only Cornejo’s ex-girlfriend and the state still want the $65,000 in back payments.
“I never thought in my whole life I would have to defend myself of 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 proves 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.
Cornejo and his attorney, Cheryl Coleman, must now persuade a judge to re-open 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.