Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Case Law Development: Wife Estopped from Using DNA Test Results to Deny Husband's Paternity

The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court's use of equitable estoppel to preclude a mother from denying her husband's custody rights based on DNA test results.  Mother had concealed the fact that Husband was not the father of the child during the marriage and a custody evaluator testified that father and son were strongly bonded.  Mother argued that Husband would have continued his relationship with and support for the child even if she had told him the child was not his.  Thus, she argued, there was no detrimental reliance to support the application of equitable estoppel.  The court of appeals disagreed, however, noting that "By withholding the true state of [Husband's] relationship to the child, [Mother] precluded [Husband] from seeking legal advice as to the extent of his relationship with [Child].... For example, had [Husband] known the truth, he might have sought to have [Mother] institute legal action to terminate the biological father's parental rights so that he could adopt the child. As an adoptive parent, [Husband] would have been on equal footing with [Mother] in any custody dispute. Given the knowledge denied [Husband] by [Mother's] actions, we conclude it was not error for the court to conclude that [Husband] relied on [Mother's] representations to his detriment. The court affirmed the trials court's grant of joint custody with primary residential custody with Father.

Hinshaw v. Hinshaw, 2006 Ky. App. LEXIS 275 (September 1, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited Sept. 5, 2006 bgf)

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