Articles Posted in Paternity

A Missouri lawmaker made headlines in February for proposing a noteworthy change to the divorce laws of that state. The Kansas City Democrat’s bill would alter a five-decade-old law to ease the hurdles facing women who are pregnant and seeking a divorce there. Maryland does not have a similar law on the books restricting a pregnant woman who seeks a divorce, but getting a Maryland divorce while pregnant does present a unique set of issues and challenges. Whatever your situation – but especially if you’re facing unique complexities like needing a divorce while pregnant – an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer can help you navigate the process and get a positive outcome… and get it as efficiently as possible.

As a specific matter, the existing Missouri statute (contrary to some social media claims) does not create a blanket ban on issuing judgments of dissolution to women who are pregnant. Pregnancy is one of eight disclosures a spouse filing for divorce must make in her petition. (Other examples of required disclosures include residency, the date and location of the marriage, and the date of separation.) Once the petitioning spouse discloses her pregnancy, the judge has the discretion to forego issuing a final judgment until that pregnancy has reached its end.

These laws, while discretionary on their faces, sometimes function as de facto bans. For example, Kentucky’s statute shares many similarities with Missouri’s regarding mandatory disclosures. It requires disclosing the date and the place of the marriage, the date of separation, the names and ages of the minor children, and whether the wife is pregnant. A subsequent subsection notes that if the wife is pregnant, “the court may continue the case until the pregnancy” ends.

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Recently, this blog touched upon a case in which a mother filed a legal action in which she, in effect, tried to disestablish paternity, which would have ended a man’s parental rights to a daughter who had been legally his since birth. That, of course, is a less common type of situation. The more frequently occurring one involves a man who has been told that he’s the father, who signs documents acknowledging paternity, and who then, sometime after the child’s birth, comes to question (or sometimes even know conclusively) that he’s not the father. Whether you are a man who finds himself in this type of situation, or a mother who finds herself in a scenario in which the father is trying escape legal responsibility, you should make sure you have capable Maryland paternity lawyers on your side in any litigation. These are serious cases, and you should retain serious professionals to protect you and your family.

A very recent ruling from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals looks at how trial courts should handle cases in which a man is contending that, although he signed an Affidavit of Parentage, the legal system should throw out that affidavit and de-certify him as the legal father. The case involved Reginald, a college student at Salisbury University, who had sexual relations with Kasandra, a fellow Salisbury student, in July 2014. The pair returned to school in the fall and, by September, began dating and resumed their sexual relationship.

In January, Kasandra texted Reginald and told him that she was pregnant and that he was the father. She told him the baby was due in mid-June. Reginald concluded that he could be the father based upon the due date Kasandra provided. Kasandra gave birth to a daughter, but the girl arrived in mid-May, rather than mid-June. Despite this discrepancy, Reginald and Kasandra both signed an Affidavit of Parentage, stating that they were the biological parents. Reginald assumed that the baby had been conceived in September and had arrived early.

When you think of a typical paternity case, the chances are you imagine a mother going to court seeking to use the authority of (and threat of punishment from) the legal system to force a father to take responsibility as a parent. Not all paternity issues are like that. In some cases, the father is fighting not to avoid responsibility but to avoid losing his rights to (and relationship with) the child he had loved and raised as his own for her entire life. Regardless of which scenario is yours, it is vital to make sure you have a knowledgeable Maryland paternity attorney working on your side.

A case that originated in Anne Arundel County and recently went before the Court of Special Appeals involved such a “non-typical” situation. Samantha and John lived together for three years but never married. In September 2012, Samantha gave birth to a daughter. The daughter’s birth certificate listed John as the father, and the daughter shared the father’s last name. Both John and Samantha signed an official form, called an Affidavit of Parentage, on which they attested that John was the girl’s biological father.

Two years later, the couple split up. For a year, they shared a 50-50 split custody arrangement. Then, in the fall of 2015, the mother went back to court. This time, she contended that John was not the daughter’s biological father. (Samantha had engaged in a brief sexual relationship with another man around the time of the daughter’s conception.) The mother wanted the court to order a DNA test to confirm her suspicion that the other man was, in fact, the father. As part of her case, Samantha alleged that both men had already taken paternity tests, and those tests showed that the other man, rather than John, was the biological parent.

The great English poet and playwright William Shakespeare asked, in his play Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While The Bard’s implication is that a name, by itself, means very little, it can be a very important thing in some family law cases. Whether you are involved in a name change contest or some other family law matter, you have certain rights, which your Maryland family law attorney can help you protect. In a recent case offering an example, a mother was able to get an order changing her son’s name reversed because the trial court didn’t follow the proper procedure.

Anne Marie gave birth to a son on Oct. 25, 2011. Anne Marie was not married. The father was not present at the birth, and no father was listed on the birth certificate. By December, Anne Marie filed a court action seeking genetic testing to establish paternity. Paternity was established the following May, and issues of custody, visitation, and child support were worked out.

In January 2014, the father asked the trial court to alter the child’s name. The son’s last name was that of the mother. The father requested that the court change the child’s last name from that of the mother to his last name. The trial court did not immediately rule on the request.

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.

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The Maryland Family Law Code makes clear that parents are responsible for their child’s support, including their care, nurture, welfare, and education. While this may seem like a straightforward and reasonable legal concept, there are instances in which an alleged parent challenges this obligation or attempts to avoid the support obligation altogether. Local state agencies and courts work to ensure that a parent who is legally obligated to support a child actually fulfills that responsibility. In many divorce cases, a judge will require one party to pay monthly child support. To be sure that your financial interests are adequately protected upon separation from your spouse, you are encouraged to consult with an experienced Maryland family law attorney as soon as possible.

In a lengthy and complicated divorce case, the husband sought to avoid responsibility for child support by contending that he was not the father of a child conceived via in vitro fertilization under the plain meaning of Maryland’s artificial insemination statute. Specifically, the father alleged that the law does not encompass the process of in vitro fertilization from a donated egg and sperm, in which the child conceived and born bears no genetic connection to either of the parties.

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Establishing paternity or “parentage” is fundamental to a child’s life for many reasons. For one, parents are legally responsible for the care and general welfare of their children, including financial support. Paternity becomes even more important in cases in which the alleged parents are divorced or have never been married. There are several ways in which parties may establish parentage under Maryland law. For instance, the parents may agree to sign an affidavit in support of paternity, a court may find that paternity has been established, or the father may undergo DNA testing. Virtually every aspect of family law is governed by the state code or established case law. In order to be sure your financial and legal rights are protected, you are encouraged to discuss your case with an experienced Maryland family law attorney.

A recent Maryland Court of Appeals case illustrates how complicated paternity cases can be, and how important it is to work out the legal aspects as early in a child’s life as possible. In Davis v. Wicomico County Bureau, “petitioner” signed an Affidavit of Parentage shortly after the birth of his twin sons in 2009. The local child support agency brought a complaint against petitioner, alleging that he was responsible for child support payments. Petitioner, however, asked for a paternity test, claiming that he was not the children’s parent. Both the trial court and the court of special appeals denied his request for a paternity test. The court of special appeals concluded that under Sections 5-1028 and 5-1038, petitioner was not entitled to a blood or genetic test.

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The issue of paternity or “parentage” can play an important role in family law cases. Paternity essentially identifies a child’s parents in the eyes of the law. As in most states, Maryland law sets forth that the parents of a minor child are jointly and severally responsible for the child’s support, care, nurture, welfare, and education. In some family law cases, even in matters where the parties are married and seeking to divorce, there can be disputes over the paternity of a child. It is important to fully understand the financial and practical implications of parentage in any family court dispute. Before you pursue any legal action, you are strongly encouraged to seek the help of an experienced Maryland family law attorney who can work to protect your rights.

In a recent Maryland divorce case, the father contested the issue of legal parentage in an effort to avoid any obligations or rights with respect to the child at the center of the dispute. Here, the couple got married in 2008 and entered into an “in-vitro” fertilization (“IVF”) plan in 2010. The parties each signed the contracts and other documents necessary to implement the plan. A child was then conceived and born with the help of a donated egg and donated sperm. Shortly after the child was born, the couple separated, and the father contested legal paternity.

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Any divorce case involving children, and the attendant questions of custody and visitation, typically includes many emotional and practical challenges. The parties separating must address issues such as physical and legal custody and the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent. It is extremely important to understand your rights under the circumstances of the divorce, especially at the very beginning of the proceedings. To protect your family’s rights in a divorce case, you are encouraged to reach out to an experienced Maryland family law attorney as soon as possible.

Child custody issues can become even more complicated in same-sex marriages, in which the local state laws (statutory or common law) have not quite caught up with the needs of such divorcing couples. Consider a recent case, Conover v. Conover, in which the parties disputed one spouse’s right to custody and visitation. Here, the couple began a relationship in 2002 and decided to try artificial insemination, by an anonymous donor, in order to conceive a child. At the time, the couple, Brittany and Michelle, lived in D.C., where same-sex marriage was not legal.

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Most states have enacted uniform laws that govern child custody and support issues. Such uniform provisions serve to provide “systematic and harmonized approaches” to family issues that require immediate attention when the parents live in different states or countries. Since such parents live in different states or nations, the first issue that must be resolved is whether the court has proper jurisdiction over the person to handle the child custody or support dispute.

The governing statutory frameworks are:  1) the Maryland Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or the UCCJEA, and 2) the Maryland Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or the UIFSA. These statutes do not contain uniform provisions on jurisdiction, and in some cases courts are called upon to sort through the discrepancy. If you are facing a child custody or support matter of any kind, it is important to contact a Maryland family law attorney to find out how the law can affect your case.

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