DENVER — Chris Atkins leads a life that might be stranger than any episode of “The Maury Povich Show.”
The daytime talk show host has made a living out of revealing DNA test results to squabbling couples, but Atkins already knows DNA has proven he’s not the father of his ex-wife’s daughter, who was 2 1/2 years old when the couple divorced.
But since the truth didn’t come out until the girl was 11 and his name remains on the birth certificate, he is legally obligated to keep paying child support.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Atkins, who hasn’t had contact with the now-15-year-old girl in four years.
The 48-year-old said he should be allowed to maintain visitation with a girl he considered his daughter or if not, be allowed to stop paying $730 a month in child support and health insurance.
“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 don’t get nothing,” Atkins said.
He accused his ex-wife Lori Lonnquist of ignoring court custody orders that grant him visitation while still collecting child support.
When asked if she was being greedy, Lonnquist said, “Maybe, but I don’t feel bad about it, I really don’t.”
Lonnquist insisted Atkins abandoned any relationship with her daughter when he learned she wasn’t biologically his. Atkins denied that and said Lonnquist refused to facilitate visits.
“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.'”
When asked if she was taking advantage of the situation, Lonnquist responded, “Maybe so, but that’s also not on me. My kid doesn’t want to see him. She wants nothing to do with him.”
Lonnquist said she would agree to stop collecting child support from Atkins if he would agree to terminate his parental rights.
Denver family law attorney Ron Litvak said Lonnquist’s suggestion is not a realistic option.
“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,” he said.
The most obvious “someone” would be Logan Doolen, the girl’s biological father. But the Aurora man said he has no intention of stepping to the plate.
Doolen said he feels bad for Atkins, but “on the flip side, if I would have to pay child support that would be messed up too.”
Lonnquist said she doesn’t think it would be right for her to go after Doolen for child support.
“Because he has his own family, he has his own life. I don’t think that’s fair to come onto somebody when they didn’t know for 11 years that they didn’t have a kid and say ‘Hey, by the way, you’re going to pay child support for a kid that you didn’t know was yours.’”
Atkins said he only learned the truth when Lonnquist told him she wanted to legally change her daughter’s last name because she was getting remarried.
Atkins refused to agree to the name change and that’s when he said Lonnquist told him the girl wasn’t really his anyway.
“So the alarms went off and we had a DNA test done and she’s not my biological daughter that I raised for 11 years,” Atkins said.
After Atkins learned the truth, he tried to submit the DNA test to an Arapahoe County judge, but the family law judge refused to accept the evidence because Atkins, who represented himself at the time, didn’t know the legal rules for submitting evidence.
When Atkins came back later with an attorney, his appeal was denied because the judge said he had already been given his opportunity to submit the DNA results.
“You know, I don’t want pity, I just want everybody to know this is happening. It’s not right, it is not right,” said a frustrated Atkins, who is now on the legal hook to keep paying child support until the girl turns 19.