A Texas court has ordered a Houston man to pay $65,000 in child support—even though he's not the father of the child in question. Gabriel Cornejo, 45, says he's only met the teenage girl at the center of the court order once last year, after a deputy served him with papers alerting him to a child he didn't know he had. Cornejo says he had no idea his ex-girlfriend had filed a paternity suit against him in 2003 identifying him as the only possible father of her daughter, now 16. They agreed to a paternity test, and the results proved "I'm not the father," he says. Yet a court ruled Cornejo was still liable to support the girl, who Cornejo calls "wonderful," because he failed to contest the suit. Cornejo, a father of three who is raising his brother's two kids, tells ABC13 that it's not fair that he should be forced to "to defend myself [of] something that I am innocent of."
A court had issued a subpoena, though Cornejo denies he got it. The records are unclear, per ABC13. No matter. Under Texas law a prospective dad is still on the hook for any child support payments assessed before being cleared by a paternity test, Cornejo's lawyer tells the Houston Chronicle. Since the payment clock began ticking in 2003, Cornejo was stunned to learn he owed nearly $65,000. The mother's lawyer disputes that Cornejo was in the dark, saying he never fought support payments docked from his paycheck years ago. "Don't stick your head in the sand," Carel Stith tells ABC13. "It won't go away." Cornejo will challenge the law in a hearing next month. (A Tennessee judge offers shorter sentences to inmates willing to get a vasectomy.)