Shortly after Chris Atkins began dating Lori Lonnquist, she informed him that she was pregnant. As Atkins tells Fox 31 Denver, he “tried to do the right thing,” and the two Colorado residents got married.
When their daughter was two-and-a-half years old, the pair split up, after which Atkins paid child support and enjoyed visitation rights.
Eight years later, Lonnquist decided she wanted to change their daughter’s last name. When Atkins refused, Lonnquist informed him that the child — whom he had been supporting for the past eleven years — was not his, and a DNA test confirmed her assertion.
Up until this point, Atkins had been paying $730 a month for child support, despite the fact that Lonnquist had begun refusing to let him exercise his visitation rights. After learning that his daughter was not biologically his, Atkins took the DNA results to court:
“I went to court and I said ‘I’m not seeing my daughter, but I’m still paying.’ [The judge] said ‘What do you want me to do arrest her?’ And I said ‘Yes sir, something.’ He said ‘It’s out of my hands.'”
While declining to enforce visitation rights, the court continues to require Atkins, pictured below, to pay child support, even though the child is not biologically his, and despite his not being allowed to see her for the past four years.
The reason? He voluntarily placed his name on the birth certificate. Legal site Nolo.com explains:
“If both parents agree who the father is, Colorado law allows them to sign a ‘Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity’ form, which establishes the alleged father as the legal father of the child. After this VAP form has been signed, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. Once 60 days has passed since the signing of the acknowledgement, neither parent can revoke or rescind his or her acknowledgement without a court action.”
In order to be freed from paying child support, it seems, Atkins would have to relinquish his paternal rights, which, according to Denver family law attorney Ron Litvak, is not easy to do.
He explains to Fox 31 Denver:
“It’s very rare that a court will ever allow someone to terminate their parental rights unless someone else is willing to step into that role. The courts are not usually going to do that.”
And the biological father, Logan Doolen, who had no knowledge that he had a daughter for these past eleven years, does not appear likely to step in and pay child support or put his name on the birth certificate. As it stands, Atkins is required to pay child support until the girl turns nineteen.
Atkins says he’s not looking for pity; he just wants people to know what is going on. Even more, he just wants to see the girl he has raised as his own daughter:
“I just want my daughter, but I can’t even see her. But yet, I’m still paying child support. And the biological father has been found. And he gets to spend time with her. I get nothing.”
Like Colorado, many states recognize the presumed father as the legal father, and in most situations, a court order is required to change that presumption.