Husband loses 'duped' child support claim
The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, by Tim Dick, November 9, 2006
Liam Magill ... lost his claim.
Photo: Paul Harris
A man who claimed he was duped into supporting his wife's two
children has lost his claim for damages against his wife for supporting
The High Court in Melbourne today rejected a suit by Liam Magill, who
married Meredith Magill in 1988, and with whom he thought he had
fathered three children.
But the youngest two were not his; fathered instead by another man, his
He paid child support for all three children until 1999 and, in 2000,
DNA testing proved he was not the father of the two youngest children.
Mr Magill won $70,000 in the Victorian County Court for economic loss
and a psychiatric condition because, the court found, his wife intended
him to sign the birth forms as the father, knowing he was not the
That decision was overturned, with the Court of Appeal finding he had
not relied on the birth forms to do anything except give the children
His support, financial and emotional, for the children was prompted by
his belief he was the father, which came from his marriage and ignorance
that his wife was having an affair.
Mr Magill appealed to the High Court, contending the Appeal Court got it
wrong in saying his belief as to the paternity of the children wasn't
induced by the birth forms.
Mrs Magill argued that deceit, as a ground for damages, did not apply in
paternity cases such as this.
He then appealed to the High Court, which delivered its decision today.
AAP reports: The court was told the Magills married in April 1988
and separated in November 1992, divorcing in 1998.
They had two sons and a daughter between April 1989 and November 1991
with Mr Magill naming himself as father on their birth registration
After separation Mr Magill paid child support for all three children.
But in 1995, Mr Magill learned that Ms Magill at least suspected that
her husband was not the father of her second son and in April 2000, DNA
testing established that Mr Magill had fathered neither this boy nor the
She subsequently acknowledged a sexual relationship with another man
which started after the birth of her first child.
Mr Magill's child support payments were adjusted to allow for past
overpayments and an extinguishment of arrears.
Outside the High Court, Mr Magill showed little emotion.
He thanked his lawyers and the public for their support during his legal
battle, which began more than seven years ago.
Mr Magill said his partner, Cheryl King, had made a brave stand by
representing him in a second case against the Child Support Agency,
which he lost last week in the Victorian County Court.
"She [Ms King] had the guts to stand up on her own with no legal
representation against the might of the Child Support Agency and the
Government and whatever legal weight that they had and I thank her for
that," Mr Magill said.
Mr Magill's lawyer Vivien Mavropoulos said the case had highlighted
fundamental social issues in Australia.
"They are the importance of truth in relationships and marriage, a
child's identity and heritage, parentage and the responsibilities that
go with that and a person's blood line, health issues and medical
history," Ms Mavropoulos said.
She urged courts, Parliament and society to address the issues raised in
Mr Magill's case "in a manner which is fair and just to all parties".