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.
Some time later, though, he came to believe that these assumptions were wrong and that the baby was not conceived in September, but in August (when he and Kasandra were not having unprotected sex), and that he wasn’t the biological father.
Reginald went to court, seeking to get the Affidavit of Parentage thrown out. He had a problem, though, since it had been more than 60 days since he signed the document. After 60 days, it becomes harder to get one of these affidavits thrown out. You have to prove that you signed under duress, that you were a victim of fraud, or that there was a material mistake of fact.
Reginald’s argument was that he signed under the mistaken belief that he was, in fact, the biological father but later came to conclude that he was not. His argument in court was that he’d made a material mistake of fact. The trial court threw out Reginald’s case, but the Court of Special Appeals reversed that ruling and revived Reginald’s case. The court concluded that the Maryland statutes that govern these types of cases had as their goal “to hold parents responsible for their own children.” The support of children should not be obtained at the cost of imposing that obligation on someone who has been proven, conclusively, to be not the child’s parent, and the law should not be construed as encouraging the courts to avoid discovering the truth in such cases, the opinion stated.
This ruling is an important decision for any man seeking a genetic test to determine whether or not a child is his and whether or not he signed an Affidavit of Parentage as a result of a mistake of fact.
If you are involved in a paternity dispute, it is important to take the matter seriously and take decisive action. Experienced Maryland child support attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been helping parents and others with paternity and other family law cases for many years. To find out how this office can assist you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
Maryland Courts Side With Father in Mother’s Legal Action that Sought to ‘Disestablish Paternity’, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 29, 2017
Maryland Mother’s Claims of Misrepresentation Not Enough to Lead Court to Order Paternity Testing, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 28, 2017