In February, Joe Vandusen of Davenport, Iowa, was ordered to pay child support for a 1-year-old child who was fathered by another man.
The mother is Vandusen’s estranged wife, whom he has not seen in about 15 years, reports local NBC television station WHO-DT.
Vandusen contacted the Department of Human Services' Child Support Recovery Unit, informing them that he's not the biological father of his wife's child, and he offered to take a paternity test to prove it, The Des Moines Register reports.
However, according to Iowa law, husbands are required to pay child support for any child born during the marriage, regardless of who the father is. A simple DNA test is not enough to exonerate a man if he is the husband.
Though they’ve been separated for many years, Vandusen and his wife never divorced. "I was married to my ex a couple of years, but we didn't see eye-to-eye, so we split up," Vandusen explained. "They said since I'm still legally married, I'm going to be responsible for the child support.”
Vandusen wanted to take the matter to court, but had recently been laid off from his job, and couldn’t afford the legal fees.
But after being interviewed in March by WQAD-TV, the story got a lot of traction on Facebook, and when Vandusen started a GoFundMe Account, money started rolling in, and he was able to afford a lawyer.
"People donating money to help me with this cause, and you have no idea how many people came out of the woodwork after my story aired, it was incredible. From all over the country," he said.
Davenport attorney Jennifer Olsen took his case and filed papers to de-establish his paternity, and the week of Sept. 26, Vandusen learned he had won his appeal to the state of Iowa's Department of Human Resources.
"It's over," he said. But he has plans to continue the fight against the law.
"I think from here, I'm going to get with these organizations that have contacted me throughout my ordeal and I think we're going to fight. I want this law changed. My case may be over, I'm not done fighting. There's a lot of guys there just like me."