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Adult son could file paternity, support petition

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A retroactive child support action brought by an adult child presented an issue of first impression for the Indiana Court of Appeals, which ruled the adult child could bring the action, but his mother would be the proper recipient of the retroactive payments.

In In Re: the paternity of: Brennan McGuire-Byers, a child born out of wedlock; Raymond S. Byers v. Brennan McGuire-Byers and Mary S. McGuire (mother), No. 71A03-0803-JV-132, Raymond Byers appealed the trial court's award of retroactive child support and attorney fees for his adult son, Brennan McGuire-Byers.

Mary McGuire and Byers were living together in Illinois in 1987 when McGuire-Byers was born, but after about a year Byers was no longer part of his son's life. He moved to Indiana but did not allow McGuire to know his location. He sent an occasional card or letter to his son but didn't pay child support.

McGuire-Byers found Byers while in high school and lived with him for about a year. In April 2006, he initiated a paternity proceeding, with his mother as a petitioner, against Byers, who was determined to be McGuire-Byers' father. The trial court ordered Byers to pay retroactive child support from the date of McGuire-Byers' birth, pay an arrearage of nearly $120,000, and pay one-third of McGuire-Byers' college expenses. The child support payments would end when McGuire-Byers turned 21. The trial court ordered the payments be made directly to McGuire-Byers.

Byers argued on appeal the retroactive child support order was improper because the paternity action was initiated by McGuire-Byers, an adult, in his own name. Under Indiana Code, McGuire-Byers could file the paternity petition in his individual capacity because he filed it before he turned 20, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. Retroactive child support was proper because the trial court found Byers was in McGuire-Byers' life for a year and would send him money and cards, signed, "Love, Dad." Byers knew he was McGuire-Byers' father but avoided responsibility, so it wasn't an error to award retroactive child support, wrote the judge.

McGuire-Byers shouldn't receive all of the retroactive child support payments, but as his mother, McGuire should be awarded the payments because she supported McGuire-Byers from the time of his birth. Because there is some question as to when McGuire stopped supporting McGuire-Byers, the appellate court remanded for the trial court to determine whether McGuire is entitled to payments from the time McGuire-Byers lived with Byers and whether she or McGuire-Byers is the proper recipient of the child support payments.

The Court of Appeals also affirmed the award of attorney's fees in favor of McGuire and remanded for the trial court to calculate the award of appellate attorney's fees for McGuire.

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