An old adage warns the reader to “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” The adage is a reference to the notion that many outcomes, even ones we desire strongly, may come with unintended consequences. This arguably was the case for a Maryland mother who lost a custody case with the man she named as her child’s father on the child’s birth certificate. A recent ruling by the Court of Special Appeals upheld that custody determination, even in the absence of a paternity test.
The mother was a woman who had a daughter in September 2009. When the girl was three, the mother and father signed an affidavit of parentage, in which both attested that the man was the daughter’s biological father. At around the same time, a birth certificate was prepared for the daughter, again naming the man as the father.
The parents’ relationship with each other was of the “on-again-off-again” variety, with the couple never marrying or living together. At some point, the daughter began living primarily with the father. The father eventually filed a court complaint for custody in the summer of 2015, after the mother allegedly absconded to South Carolina with the child. The mother launched her own counterclaim. In her court papers, she alleged that the man was not the daughter’s natural father.
At the custody hearing, the mother demanded a paternity test. The trial court denied that request, concluding that the only evidence contradicting the father’s paternity was the mother’s own admission that she lied on the affidavit of paternity, and that wasn’t enough to constitute a valid challenge to the father’s paternity.
Ultimately, after hearing all of the evidence about each parent’s fitness, the judge concluded that the father provided a more stable, safe, and beneficial home for the child. The court granted joint legal custody to the parents, with the father receiving primary physical custody and the mother receiving visits with the child at the father’s home or at a local shopping mall.
The mother appealed but lost. The appeals court, in upholding the trial judge’s ruling, explained what was involved in throwing out an affidavit of paternity. The person who executes an affidavit of paternity can rescind that document within 60 days. After that, the only way to reverse an affidavit of paternity is for the person seeking to have the affidavit thrown out to prove to the court that the affidavit was a result of “fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact.”
Neither parent sought to rescind the document within 60 days. Instead, years later, the mother made an argument to a trial court in a custody hearing, alleging that the father was not the daughter’s biological parent and that she lied on the affidavit (which constitutes an act of perjury) because she was in the midst of a health crisis at the time and needed the man to care for the child. These assertions, even if true, do not require the courts to honor her demand for a paternity test. None of the assertions she made amounted to fraud, duress, or a mistake of material fact.
For clear and reliable advice, along with diligent and determined advocacy, contact Maryland child custody attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has helped many families throughout Maryland utilize the legal process to achieve beneficial results for their families. To find out how this office can assist you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
Maryland Court Reviews Issue of Paternity in Child Support Case, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 1, 2015
“Marital Presumption” Under Maryland Code Governs Issues of Paternity, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 16, 2014