Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another Paternity Fraud Related Article - Another Proposed Statute

This time from Michigan - Some Mich. dads say paternity law unfair.

A Grand Traverse County court concluded in 2003 that since the mother was married at the time of the baby's birth, Numerick had no legal claim. On appeal, Numerick lost.
"There was literally nothing I could have done to guarantee my rights," Numerick said.
His court case, however, caught the attention of lawmakers. One in particular, state Sen. Michelle McManus, eventually introduced a bill that would amend the Paternity Act, allowing a biological father to bring legal claim until his child turns 1 year old.
Other conditions, too, would need to be met, like submitting to the court a positive DNA test and proof that the mother was legally separated from her husband at conception.
The bill was reintroduced in February and is awaiting further action.
The Family Law Council, a section of the State Bar of Michigan, helped draft the latest version of the bill. But its advisers have cautioned that changes should be slow and steady, one representative said.
"The question is, 'How quickly and how dramatically should the law move in changing the status quo?' " asked Kent Weichmann, legislative chairman for the council.

I will admit that the original article did not make the Michigan law very clear to me.  Indiana has some case law on point that I will need to dig up.

My other posts on the subject are here and here and here

Thanks to Family Law Prof for pointing out this article.


Jeanne M. Hannah said...

Hello Sam,

These cases are enormously complicated. The proposed legislation in Michigan would allow a biological father to establish parentage if a child is born during a marriage but the mother has a decree of "legal separation" from a court. I predict that NO biological fathers will be able to benefit from the pending legislation. In 24 years of practice, I have filed only two or three cases for legal separation (as opposed to divorce). I recall that perhaps one of those resulted in a decree of legal separation, and the other two ended in a divorce.

The difficulty with these cases, I conclude, is because there are really several different issues. (1) Some biological fathers are denied parental rights because their child is conceived and/or born during a marriage. [This is the Numerick case]. If the mother refuses to permit a parent-child relationship, the biological dad is out of luck. (2) Sometimes a mother will hide behind her husband (not admit there is a biological father out there) and then years later, upon divorcing that husband, she'll let him know that the child isn't his. He may decide to disestablish parentage and, under certain circumstances, he may be able to do so. This may leave the child without a father or it may put the bio-dad on the hook. Then the bio-dad pays, but has no relationship with the child and/or may be able to establish one despite having been deprived of one for many years. (3) A husband or a biological father is really "duped" -- as in the "duped dad" syndrome. Mother lets him think the child is his, collects support if it's a paternity case or, if it's a divorce, dad pays support upon divorce. At some point in time, this "legal father" buys the drugstore kit and learns that the child is not his. The "Duped Dad" tag came into play when huge support arrearages began to hurt. The last is a whole different ballgame.

I've written extensively on this issue. I confess that my last post -- with "Duped Dads" in the title -- confused people because I was writing about issues (1) and (2) above, not about the support issue. In my "spare" time, I intend to write extensively on these issues.

In the meantime, at you and your readers may find many articles on parentage that I've written. Although these articles are written using Michigan law as a basis, the law is really quite similar in most states.

The real problems come into play when addressing whether or not the father who is a "legal father" may disestablish parentage to avoid child support and whether the child support arrearages may be recovered or eliminated.

Jeanne M. Hannah

Sam Hasler said...

Thanks Jeanne, I think I understand why the article sounded so vague about the statute. The statute sounds like a mess.

Like you, I have never seen much of legal separation. My wife and I were discussing this one day and after I got done describing legal separation, she said why would anyone choose that?

Your three categories are found here in Indiana. Common law rules here instead of a statute. I started calling them cuckoo cases. Not because they were nuts but for the bird that lays eggs in other birds' nests. I am not aware of any reported cases in many years. The leading case set out that "Duped Dad" must find out about the duping by accident.

And all this is a bit distinct from the foolishly signed paternity affidavits.

I would like to see the General Assembly do something but I do think we need to follow Michigan's example. I wish you good luck. Legislatures...can't live without them. can't live without them.