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November 22, 2005
Case Law Development: Paternity and Child Support Actions Commenced After Mother's Death
In this case before the Arkansas Supreme Court, Mother died when her daughter was sixteen years old and the girl was then cared for by her Aunt. At Aunt's request, the state child support enforcement agency then brought a paternity and child support action against Father. After genetic testing, the trial court entered a paternity finding and ordered the payment of child support retroactive to Mother's death. The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Aunt's testimony in corroboration of the genetic testing evidence was appropriate. If a mother is alive, she is required to give corroborating testimony regarding access during the probable period of conception to make a prima facie case of paternity. However, the court noted, when the mother is deceased the statute requires only "corroborating testimony concerning the conception, birth, and history of the child" in order to state a prima facie case of paternity. Moreover, the court held that Father's laches defense had no merit because Aunt had taken steps as soon as she had custody of daughter to obtain support on her behalf and the trial court had ordered support retroactive only to Mother's death.
Watt v. Office of Child Support Enforcement, 2005 Ark. LEXIS 718 (November 17, 2005)
Opinion on the web at http://courts.state.ar.us/opinions/2005b/20051117/05-131.html (last visited November 21, 2005 bgf)