Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Case Law Development: Child is Not Bound by Mother's Compromise of Paternity Action unless Independently Represented

A 22-year-old son brought an action for paternity and retroactive child support against his putative father.  Father claims res judicata precludes the suit because in 1983, Mother had dismissed with prejudice her own paternity action pursuant to a compromise with putative father.  The trial court rejected the res judicata argument, and the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed.  The court noted that the son was not represented by counsel in Mother's action and the guardian ad litem appointed for him in that action signed the settlement as to form only and the court did not obtain the approval of the GAL as to the substance of the agreement.  As children have separate interests in a determination of paternity beyond the right to collect support, the court applied the general rule that

a minor child is not barred from instituting a later action to determine paternity when a prior action brought in his name has reached judgment through a stipulated agreement.... Under these circumstances, this Court finds that [son's] interests were neither determined nor considered and his rights were not adequately protected, so that he did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issues pending before the juvenile court in 1983. Because [son] was not accorded his due process rights in regard to the 1983 compromise agreement, his instant claims could not be barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

Knapp v. Bayless,  2006 Ohio 4414; 2006 Ohio App. LEXIS 4344 (August 28, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited August 29, 2006 bgf)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/08/case_law_develo_27.html

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