Friday, July 28, 2006

Case Law Development: Michigan Supreme Court Denies Paternity Action to Father Listed on Birth Certificate and Acknowledgment of Paternity

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a man lacked standing to bring a paternity action, even though he was listed as the father on a child's birth certificate and in an affidavit of parentage executed in the hospital and then helped raise the child for more than four years until he and Mother separated.  Mother was married to another man when she became pregnant and concealed the pregnancy during the divorce.  Michigan law provides standing to bring paternity actions only for children born out of wedlock or for whom a court has determined by clear and convincing evidence that the child is not issue of the marriage.  In Mother's default judgment of divorce, the court stated that it appears that “no children were born of this marriage and none are expected.”  The Michigan Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, held that the plaintiff did not have standing under the Paternity Act "because the default judgment is not clear and convincing evidence that the child was not an issue of the marriage."

The dissenting opinions had strong words for the majority:

In this case, the majority again evidences a rigid adherence to wooden
strictures such as the presumption of legitimacy even where, as here, the purposes
of the presumption are not served. The majority has exhibited a consistent pattern
of ruling against putative fathers who seek to exercise their due process rights with
respect to children they claim as their own.  (dissent by Kelly, J.)

In adopting defendant’s position that the divorce judgment was insufficient
to establish that her child was born out of wedlock, the majority renders a default
judgment in this case meaningless; it condones and encourages gamesmanship by
a party to a child custody proceeding; and it allows a party to prevail, in significant
part, because of that party’s own delinquency in failing to participate in an earlier
judicial proceeding. (dissent by Markman, J.)

Barnes v. Jeudevine, 2006 Mich. LEXIS 1460 (July 26, 2006)
Opinion on the web

For news reports including a video interview with the father, see WWMT.com Digital Channel 3 (last visited July 27, 2006 bgf)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/07/case_law_develo_15.html

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