September 18, 2005
Case Law Development: Grounds for Relief from Paternity Judgment
After a court of appeals in 1999 allowed a father to be relieved of his parental duties under Tennessee’s relief from judgment rule, the court of appeals has reviewed a number of cases in which genetic tests conclusively exclude a legal father as the biological father and the father then seeks relief from the judgment of his paternity. In this case, Father knew that he was not the biological father of his paramour’s child, but voluntarily sought an order of legitimation and and an order to change the child’s last name to his own. When, a few months after marrying Mother, Father sought divorce, he also filed for relief from the judgment of legitimation, arguing that he did not know that the judgment would mean he would have continuing obligation in the event of divorce. The court of appeals concluded that there was no error in refusing relief and, in doing so, reviewed a number of recent cases addressing the issue. The court noted that there was no “bright line rule” requiring relief from judgment whenever one discovers their biological parentage status. Given the recent deluge of cases this case recites, one suspects the courts might even regret having opened the door to relief from judgment in these cases at all.
Welch v. Welch, 2005 Tenn. App. LEXIS 570 (September 13, 2005)
Opinion on the web at http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/OPINIONS/053/WelchMichaelOPN.wpd (last visited September 17, 2005 bgf)