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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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