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Appellate judges disagree about dismissal of paternity petition

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court in dismissing a paternity petition, but one judge dissented, saying the ruling now leaves the child with no legally recognized father.

In In the Matter of the Paternity of S.C.; K.C. v. C.C. and B.H., No. 30A01-1107-JP-322, CC. and B.H. had disputed who was father of S.C., a child born to mother K.C. in 2008.

K.C. and C.C. began dating in high school, and both knew B.H. At some point, K.C. had a sexual relationship with B.H., and in 2007, she was at B.H.’s house when she learned she was pregnant.

K.C. told C.C. about the pregnancy and said she believed he was the father, although she wondered if the child might be B.H.’s. She ended her relationship with B.H., and C.C. was with her when she gave birth.

On July 29, 2008, B.H. filed a verified petition for immediate paternity order in the Fayette Circuit Court, alleging he was S.C.’s father, requesting an order that the mother and S.C. submit to a DNA test, and asking that it be performed before K.C. and S.C.’s discharge from the hospital.

K.C. and S.C. submitted to blood tests, and on Aug. 4, 2008, the DNA Diagnostic Center in Fairfield, Ohio issued a DNA test report indicating a 99.9997% probability that B.H. was S.C.’s biological father.

K.C. and B.H. received the DNA test results in October. About a week later, C.C., pro se, and on behalf of S.C., filed a verified petition to establish paternity in the Hancock Circuit Court. He alleged that he was S.C.’s father based upon a July 30 paternity affidavit he and K.C. created. On Oct. 22, the Hancock Circuit Court issued an order establishing C.C.’s paternity; the Fayette Circuit Court held a hearing on B.H.’s paternity action, ultimately dismissing it, holding that it was not a petition for paternity, but rather a petition to require DNA testing.  

On June 25, 2010, B.H., by counsel, filed his verified petition for relief of judgment for fraud upon the court (the petition for relief) in the Hancock Circuit Court, alleging that C.C.’s paternity order was obtained through fraud. The Hancock Circuit Court granted B.H.’s petition, holding – among other findings – the mother had suspected the child might be B.H.’s and that her lawyer had not notified B.H. of the petition for paternity that C.C. had filed in Hancock County.

The COA affirmed the court’s decision to set aside C.C.’s paternity petition, writing, “We reiterate that this decision does not leave S.C. without a father and Mother without options. Even assuming that the July 31, 2008 DNA test was faulty or legally inadmissible, the parties are free to have another test performed and do what they will depending upon those results, including the pursuit of support proceedings against B.H. or the initiation of adoption proceedings by C.C.”

But Judge Patricia Riley dissented, writing, “All that has occurred here is the judicially imposed removal of that obligation since B.H. has not been legally recognized as S.C.’s father. This leads to an unjust result whereby B.H. is free to abandon his claim to S.C.’s paternity leaving S.C. with no one obliged to support her.”

 

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