ILNews

COA mulls 'fraud' in paternity affidavit statute

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A man's paternity cannot be revoked three years after he and the child's mother fraudulently signed an affidavit establishing that he's the legal father, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

The court's unanimous ruling paves the way for a possible Indiana Supreme Court interpretation of this particular state statute, which this appellate panel believes was designed to protect a man's paternal rights in the event he was defrauded - not when he was the one doing the deception along with the mother.

Judges ruled on the Porter County case of In the Matter of the Paternity of H.H., Richard Lucito v. Ericka M. Hughes, No. 64A03-0709-431, which dates to the fall of 2003 when Hughes and Lucito started dating. She soon discovered she was pregnant, but both knew Lucito wasn't the father. However, they agreed that he would assume the role of father and in April 2004, the couple signed a paternity affidavit to this effect. The two separated in 2006 and he provided financial support, but the mother later objected to his petition to establish custody, support, and parenting time on grounds that he wasn't H.H.'s biological father.

Lucito asserted he had parental rights pursuant to the paternity affidavit, but the court set aside the affidavit because it was fraudulently executed and denied Lucito's request. State statute allows a court to set one aside after more than 60 days if that affidavit was executed in fraud or a biological test later points out that he wasn't, despite belief.

In today's seven-page decision, Judge Melissa May wrote that the legislature didn't intend Indiana Code 16-37-2-2.1(i) to be used to set aside paternity affidavits executed by a man and a woman who both knew the man wasn't the biological father of the child in the first place.

"Rather, we believe the legislature intended to provide assistance to a man who signed a paternity affidavit due to 'fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact,'" the court wrote.

Under the trial court's ruling, a man could maintain his legal relationship with a child in such a situation only if he had genetic proof of his paternity.

"If a woman may 'use' a man to support her and her children until she tires of him, and then 'dispose' of him as both partner and father, an unwed father would have no guarantee his relationship with a child could be maintained without proof of a genetic relationship. This could not be the intent of the legislature. Neither could it further the public policy of this State, where 'protecting the welfare of children ... is the utmost importance,'" Judge May wrote, citing Straub v. B.M.T. by Todd, 645 N.E.2d 597, 599 (Ind. 1994). "Therefore, once a mother has signed a paternity affidavit, she may not use the paternity statutes to deprive the legal father of his rights, even if he is not the biological father."

The case now goes back to the trial court to decide on issues of custody, support, and parenting time between H.H.'s two legal parents.
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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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