COA: State had no authority to bring paternity action

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A trial court erred in ordering a southern Indiana teen to undergo genetic testing to establish paternity of a stillborn child, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Thursday. It found the state, which filed the petition for paternity on behalf of the mother, had no authority to bring the action because there were no custody or support issues to be determined.

In In re the Paternity of D.M.: J.W. v. C.M., 10A01-1306-JP-253, C.M. and her mother asked the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office for assistance in establishing paternity of D.M. C.M. gave birth at home to D.M., who was stillborn. C.M. indicated that she did not know that she was pregnant and did not have any prenatal care. She said J.W. was the father, which he denies.

C.M. assigned her rights to the state pursuant to an assignment for persons not receiving public assistance and Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. J.W. filed a motion to dismiss, arguing because of the circumstances of D.M.’s birth, there were no prenatal, birth or postnatal expenses to be reimbursed, nor was C.M. receiving services or assistance from the state which could be reimbursed.

The trial court, noting there is a “dearth of guidance by our appellate courts” in cases such as these, denied J.W.’s motion. The judge found J.W. should bear the cost of DNA testing if he chooses to do so.  

The Court of Appeals agreed there is a “dearth of guidance” on the particular point raised by this case, but disagreed with the decision to deny J.W.’s motion. In general, C.M., even though not receiving Title IV-D assistance, is allowed under state law to request the state’s assistance in pursuing a paternity action, and the state is authorized to do so.

But the purpose of Title IV-D and the Indiana Child Support program is to enforce support obligations owed to custodial parents and their children. Because J.W. would owe no support to D.M. even if his paternity was established, the state has no authority under the Indiana Child Support Program to bring this paternity action.

The prosecutor’s only interest in bringing a paternity action is to represent the child’s interests, but a stillborn child does not have any interests, the court held.

Paternity can still be established for a stillborn child, but just not in an action brought by the state. I.C. 31-14-4-1 provides a list of people or entities that may file a paternity action within two years of the child’s birth.

“Therefore, in an appropriate case, paternity of a stillborn child may be established for the purpose of recouping those costs,” Judge Margret Robb wrote.

 “Although we understand and sympathize with C.M. and her family and their wish to legally establish paternity for purposes of closure, respect, and learning the truth, these are not issues that the paternity statutes are intended to remedy,” she continued in a footnote.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues