Man’s Paternity Affidavit May be Disestablished if Second Man Files Paternity Action That Confirms He is Biological Father

Family Law Case Review

Case: In Re: The Paternity of I.I.P.: Kailei L. Poteet v. Justin Rodgers and Nathan T. Poteet
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: A man’s paternity, established through the execution of a paternity affidavit, may later be disestablished if a second man files a paternity action that confirms the second man is the biological father of the child.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:  Near the time of Child’s conception, Mother was in a relationship with Legal Father. Around the same time, Mother also had an intimate relationship with Biological Father, which resulted in Mother ending her relationship with Legal Father. Mother gave birth to Child in November 2012. When Child was approximately four months old, Mother and Legal Father reconciled and subsequently married in 2014. In 2015, Legal Father executed a paternity affidavit to establish paternity of Child.

Legal Father filed a petition to dissolve the marriage. While the dissolution action was pending, Mother rekindled her relationship with Biological Father and she filed a petition to establish paternity, identifying Biological Father as Child’s father. Mother also requested genetic testing, which established that Biological Father was Child’s biological parent.

In early 2017, Legal Father filed a motion to dismiss Mother’s petition to establish paternity. Legal Father alleged that Mother’s petition failed to state a claim. Around the same time, Biological Father filed a petition of his own to establish paternity and simultaneously to disestablish Legal Father’s paternity.

Following a hearing, the trial court determined that Legal Father had executed a paternity affidavit, and that it had not been timely challenged as being a product of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. The trial court further concluded that, by signing the paternity affidavit, Mother was estopped from attempting to establish paternity in another man. The paternity matter was dismissed, and Mother and Biological Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the matter to determine whether there was any genuine issue of material fact and to determine whether Mother was precluded, as a matter of law, from challenging Legal Father’s paternity.

The Court of Appeals noted that paternity may be established only by either (1) filing a paternity action or, (2) executing a paternity affidavit. Further, an executed paternity affidavit can be set aside only one of two ways. First, a man signing a paternity affidavit has 60 days after executing it to request genetic testing through the court and, if he is excluded as the biological father, the trial court may set aside the paternity affidavit. Second, if more than 60 days have passed since the execution of the paternity affidavit, it may be rescinded only if the trial court determines that fraud, dress, or a material mistake of fact existed in the execution of the paternity affidavit and, at the request of the man who signed the paternity affidavit, genetic testing indicates that the man is excluded as the father of the child.

In this case, it was undisputed that Legal Father established paternity by executing a paternity affidavit. Further, more than 60 days had passed since Legal Father executed the paternity affidavit in 2015. Legal Father never requested genetic testing; rather, it was Mother who sought the genetic testing. This foreclosed any possible way to rescind the paternity affidavit directly.

However, the Court of Appeals determined there was another possible avenue for disestablishing Legal Father‘s paternity. By statute, once paternity is established in one man, doing so indirectly disestablishes paternity in another man. Thus, Biological Father’s paternity action could operate to disestablish the paternity of Legal Father.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the particulars of the trial court pleadings of Mother and Biological Father, finding them to be procedurally defective. However, the Court of Appeals expressed concern that the trial court ignored Mother’s request to amend her paternity petition. Further, while Indiana law generally provides that an action to establish paternity must be filed within two years of the child’s birth, certain statutory exceptions allow for a petition to be filed later. The Court of Appeals concluded that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether not such exceptions applied in this case. Therefore, the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Judge Baker dissented. His interpretation of Indiana statute was that a paternity affidavit that has already been executed may not be rescinded unless the trial court finds both: (1) fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact existent in the execution of the paternity affidavit, and (2) at the request of the man who executed the paternity affidavit, genetic testing is undertaken which excludes the man as the natural father. Since neither one of those things occurred in this case, Judge Baker concluded that any further relief was unavailable, including via the paternity action statute. He cited to prior case law that provided that “once a mother has signed a paternity affidavit, she may not use the paternity statutes to deprive the legal father of his rights, even if he is not the biological father.”

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In Re: The Paternity of I.I.P.: Kailei L. Poteet v. Justin Rodgers and Nathan T. Poteet

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James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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By Virtue of Executing the Consent of Adoption, Biological Mother was Precluded from Seeking Custody of Child

Family Law Case Review

Case: J.R. and C.R. v. S.P. and D.P
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: A biological parent’s consent to adoption, followed by a finalized adoption and relinquishment of parental rights, precludes the biological parent from subsequently seeking custody of the child, including pursuant to Indiana Code 31-17-2-3, which otherwise broadly permits a third-party to file a petition seeking custody of a child.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:  Child was born to Biological Mother in 2003. The day after Child’s birth, Biological Mother signed a consent to adoption, which consented to Mother’s adoption of Child, waived notice of all proceedings connected to the adoption, and relinquished all maternal rights. Four days later, Mother and Father filed a petition to adopt Child, which was subsequently finalized and approved. The parties did not enter into any agreement regarding post-adoption contact between Biological Mother and Child.

Thirteen years later, after reconnecting with Child and learning of apparent friction between Child and the adoptive parents, Biological Mother and her husband filed a petition seeking custody of Child. They relied upon Indiana Code 31-17-2-3, which broadly permits a third-party to file a petition seeking custody of a child.

The adoptive parents filed a motion to dismiss Biological Mother’s petition for failure to state a claim, which the trial court granted after a hearing. Biological Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals concluded that, by virtue of executing the consent to adoption, the adoption proceedings that were finalized, and the related relinquishment of maternal rights, Biological Mother was precluded from seeking custody of Child. The Court of Appeals also noted the public policy consideration that allowing Biological Mother’s case to move forward would create unnecessary instability and uncertainty in all adoption cases.

The trial court’s dismissal of Biological Mother’s petition was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: J.R. and C.R. v. S.P. and D.P

 

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James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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The Use & Misuse of Social Media in Law Firms – Feb. 28

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Mann Law, P.C., Indianapolis

Kristopher Hughes
FindLaw & Super Lawyers, Evansville
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THE USE & MISUES OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN LAW FIRMS
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