A Houston court has ordered a man to pay $65,000 in child support for a child whose DNA he doesn’t share, ABC News reported on Friday, July 21.
Gabriel Cornejo is already a father of three children and is raising two of his brother’s children. Last year, a deputy showed up at his door to serve paperwork informing him that he may have another daughter. A DNA test proved otherwise, but that won’t help much, according to current Texas law.
“I never thought in my whole life I would have to defend myself for something that I am innocent of,” Cornejo told ABC.
When Cornejo learned that he may have another child, he went to meet the girl, who was 16 at the time.
“[She’s] a wonderful girl,” Cornejo said. “Very smart. A lot going on for herself.”
The girl’s mother was Cornejo’s girlfriend 16 years ago. She told the court in 2003 that he is the only possible father.
The court assessed that Cornejo owed $65,000 in 2003 and withdrew some money from his paychecks. These payments are now used as proof that he knew of the 2003 order.
Cornejo asserts that he knew nothing of the court case at the time. Court records suggest, but do not prove, that he received a subpoena years ago. As a result, although the science is on Cornejo’s side, the law sided with his ex-girlfriend.
“They say he should have fought back then and he failed to do so,” Cheryl Coleman, Cornejo’s lawyer, said. “But how can you fight something you don’t know anything about?”
If the court does not reopen the case, Cornejo will have to either pay or face the possibility of going to jail.
The ex-girlfriend’s lawyers said that he should have addressed the claim years ago.
“Don’t stick your head in the sand,” the mother’s lawyer Carel Stith said. “It won’t go away and there can be consequences even if you don’t do anything.”