February 12th, 2012

connecticut paternity case

If you would like to skip my summary and just read it yourself:


If you would like to know why the heck I thought this was worth blogging:

R. summarized it as interesting because usually when a kid is born and raised within a marriage, even if it is later shown that the father is not biologically the father, the father can't avoid his responsibilities as the father (paying child support in the event of a divorce, say). That's more or less what the lower court found. The idea is that the kid or kids would be harmed by losing the parent and the state has an interest in someone being responsible for the kid or kids (that, as near as I can tell, is what equitable estoppel and public policy mean in the summary, but I'm one of the non-lawyers in this clan so consult someone who might know better than me).

The decision was overturned, however, because in this particular case, legal-father is suing bio-father for costs incurred. That is, there isn't a gap between legal-father opting out due to not being bio-father and bio-father being identified and roped into being responsible for the child; a decision in this case would prevent that gap. The emotional issues raised in the trial court were handled in an interesting and, I thought, appropriate way (making legal-dad continue to pay isn't going to fix the emotional problem and having bio-dad compensate legal-dad isn't going to make them any worse).

No decision on the actual case has occurred and I have no idea when one might happen. But lest you think the kid in question is gonna be all torn up about this, being off-loaded onto a total stranger from her previously loving papa, here's from the case:

"For example, when the younger
daughter was born, the defendant accompanied Tournier
and the plaintiff when they brought the younger
daughter home from the hospital in a limousine. Additionally,
the defendant attended many of the younger
daughter’s musical recitals and her eighth grade graduation,
but did not attend activities of the elder daughter.
The younger daughter, but not the elder daughter, also
spent increasing amounts of time at Tournier’s and the
defendant’s place of business. Finally, the younger
daughter did not resemble the elder daughter or the
plaintiff’s daughter from a previous marriage."

It's always embarrassing to be involved in major legal precedents, but I think this kid will probably be just fine. Dad got suspicious and hair-sampled himself and the younger kid. That led to a divorce proceeding in which the _court_ ordered genetic samples from bio-dad and the younger kid to confirm the relationship (wow is Connecticut a weird state for divorce).

The whole thing is really interesting and worth reading. I'm betting we'll be reading about Fisher v. Zollino (and however it turns out) in a lot of books and articles, legal, academic and ordinary, for a long time to come.

I've probably made mistakes in the summary so definitely read the opinion yourself to get it right. If you would like me to correct something about this post, please feel free to make suggestions in the comments. (Altho I will pre-emptively say I'd prefer not to use the word putative.)