A recent decision in Family Court has safeguarded a father’s role in his child’s life, and preserved the notion that family is as much about love as bloodline. When a single mother sought a “declaration of non-parentage” to remove the non-biological father from her daughter’s life, the father fought back, securing the role he held for more than five years. This is an interesting case that advocates for this father’s rights.
The father (the appellee) and the mother (the appellant) lived together, unmarried, for three years. It was during that time, in 2012, that the mother gave birth to a little girl. Although the mother had a brief relationship with another man around the time of conception, both she and the appellee believed that he was the biological father of the child.
To that end, the appellee fulfilled the role of father to the child. The appellee is listed on the birth certificate as the biological and legal father, and the child bear’s the appellee’s last name. Furthermore, both the appellant and the appellee executed an Affidavit of Parentage, establishing the appellee as the child’s biological father.
In September of 2014, the couple separated, but agreed to a shared custody arrangement, with alternating weeks of custody. The arrangement continued until October of 2015, when the appellate filed a “Petition to Establish Paternity.” The mother declared she had come to believe that the appellee was not the biological father of the child, and she requested a DNA test to confirm non-paternity.
In January of 2016, the appellate filed an Amended Petition, which was properly titled a “Petition to Disestablish Paternity.” In this petition, she alleged that the appellee had already taken a paternity test, and had acknowledged that the test showed that he was not the biological father of the child. Additionally, the actual biological father took a paternity test, which established his paternity.
Since the day of the child’s birth, the appellee has immersed himself in the role of father, and taken a deep role in raising her. In a separate case, he is currently litigating issues of custody and visitation.
Challenging the Affidavit of Parentage
In her effort to oust the appellee, who has filled the role of father to the child for now five years, the appellant challenged the Affidavit of Parentage. She questioned the Court’s findings despite factual errors of biological paternity, and because the Court did not take evidence or testimony, or make factual determination that the Affidavit of Parentage was not obtained by either fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. However, since both parties met the legal requirements for filing the Affidavit, this was not upheld.
The “Typical” Scenario
In many if not most cases, the situation is reversed. If a man who had avowed himself as the biological father came to learn that he was not, indeed, the biological father, he could attack the status of the Affidavit of Parentage within 60 days of the signing of the Affidavit, but only by showing that it had been the result of “fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact.”
However, the appellee did not challenge, question, or in any way seek to negate his freely accepted status of paternity. Because of this, the appellant – the mother – cannot do for him that which he has chosen not to do for himself, and which, in fact, he strongly opposes.
If the appellant had chosen to pursue this as a “material mistake of fact” when she challenged our client’s paternity, she failed to recognize that the words “paternity” and “parentage” have two distinct meanings, since a man can be a biological father who raises a child, or a non-biological father who raises a child – as with adoption.
How the Concept of Adoption Figures into this Case
Except in very rare circumstances, an adoptive father is not the biological father of the child. However, the adoptive father is the unchallengeable legal father of the child, and immune from blood tests and DNA analysis. Likewise, a sperm donor could not challenge an adoptive father of a child. Challenging an adoptive father’s status is not an option, because it would threaten the foundation of adoption.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, Provide Powerful Advocacy for your Child Custody Case
The Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC are prepared to assist you with all your family law legal needs. Call 443-589-0150 to schedule a free and confidential consultation, or contact us online. From our centrally located offices in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we represent clients throughout the Maryland.