Friday, March 10, 2006
Case Law Developments: Acceptance of Child Support Requires Dismissal of Appeal Contesting Parentage
The Supreme Court of Delaware held that Mother's action to establish child support and acceptance of support payments from her partner required dismissal of the appeal from the trial court's award of joint custody. The disputing parents in this case are two women who, during the course of their nine-year relationship bore four children by artificial insemination from the same anonymous donor. One mother gave birth to triplets and several years later, the other mother had a daughter. The couple and the four children lived together until 2003, when the couple decided they could no longer live together. They agreed that the triplet's biological Mother would be the residential parent of the four minor children, with generous visitation for the biological Mother of the youngest daughter. After a few months, Mother of the youngest indicated that she would not abide by the agreement and took custody of the triplets.
In resolving the dispute, the trial court awarded both mothers joint custody, finding that the mother of the youngest daughter was a de facto parent to the triplets. The triplet's biological mother filed for child support and also appealed the trial court's action. The court of appeals determined that it need not reach the issue of whether Delaware recognized de facto parent status because the acceptance of benefits doctrine required dismissal of the appeal. "The "acceptance of the benefits" doctrine provides that an appeal from a judgment is prohibited when the appellant has voluntarily accepted benefits from that judgment."
Smith v. Smith, 2006 Del. LEXIS 113 (March 7, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited March 8, 2006 bgf)