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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
State courts take very seriously the issue of child support in any family law proceeding. Certain local agencies even have the authority to file a complaint against a party who has not met his or her obligation to make child support payments under a court order. This authority serves to protect the financial interests and overall well-being of a child, who is unable to advocate for him or herself. In most cases, it is clear who is obligated to make such payments: one or both of the child’s parents. But there have been cases in which the issue of “parentage” or paternity has come into question, resulting in a further question as to who is obligated to financially support the child. If you are facing any family law issue, including child custody or support matters, it is important that you contact a local Maryland attorney who is fully experienced in the field.
Establishing paternity is the first step to securing a child support order. In a recent Maryland family law case, Davis v. Wicomico County Bureau of Support Enforcement, the local agency sought to enforce a child support order issued against the “father,” Justin Davis (appellant in this case). Here, the mother, Jessica Cook, gave birth to twins in December 2009. Shortly after the birth, both parties, Davis and Cook, signed affidavits of parentage, attesting that Davis was the “natural father” of the twins. They were given his last name.
Under Maryland law, children born or conceived during a marriage are presumed to be the legitimate children of both spouses. The issue of paternity is important to settle as early in a child’s life as possible, for emotional, financial, and legal reasons. Once a man is determined to be the father, he is under a legal obligation to support the child. In some cases, a person may attempt to dispute paternity and any resulting court order regarding child support or custody issues. This is a matter that courts take very seriously. If you are facing a paternity, child custody, or support matter, it is important to contact an experienced family law attorney who can help to preserve and protect your legal rights.
This law referenced above does not take into account a situation where the spouses cease living together, fail to enter into divorce proceedings, and the wife bears children with another person. Under these circumstances, the marital presumption would kick in and the husband would be presumed to be the father of any children born during their marriage, whether he was living with the mother or not. In a recent case, the couple married in 2000 but stopped living together soon after. Neither spouse sought a divorce. But in the years since their marriage, the mother gave birth to five children, four of them within the time period when the couple was “estranged” Continue reading →