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Putative dad can file paternity petition for child

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that although a putative father's paternity petition should be dismissed, he could proceed as the next friend of the alleged daughter in her paternity petition.

"We acknowledge the apparent anomaly that a putative father barred by one statutory section from petitioning for paternity on his own behalf may nevertheless succeed in filing, under a different statutory section, substantially the same petition as next friend on behalf of the child," wrote Judge Margret Robb. "Yet where two statutes appear inconsistent in some respect, we must give effect to both if possible."

In today's opinion In the Matter of Adoption of E.L., and In Re: the Paternity of E.L. b/n/f R.J.; R.J. v. V.N., No. 49A05-0902-CV-152, the appellate court concluded alleged father R.J. hadn't registered as E.L.'s putative father when the adoption petition was filed by V.N.'s new husband and couldn't proceed with his paternity petition. V.N. was unmarried at the time she had E.L. and no father was listed on E.L.'s birth certificate. Both parties believed R.J. was the father.

Indiana Code Section 31-19-5-12(a) says a putative father must register 30 days after the child's birth, or the earlier date of the filing of a petition for adoption or termination of the parent-child relationship of the mother. A putative father who fails to file within the specific deadlines listed in the statute waives notice of an adoption proceeding and gives implied consent to the child's adoption.

R.J. argued that because he had timely filed a paternity action, the issue of filing with the Putative Father Registry was moot, but the appellate court dismissed this argument. Under I.C. Section 31-19-5-6(b), the filing of a paternity action by a putative father doesn't relieve him of the obligation of registering or the consequences of failing to register, wrote Judge Robb. Even if he had timely registered, his instant petition is likely time-barred because the general time limit for filing a paternity action is two years, subject to six exceptions. R.J. didn't file until after E.L. was older than two, and he doesn't fall under any of the exceptions.

The trial court erred, however, in dismissing E.L.'s paternity petition filed by R.J. as a next friend. Indiana hasn't statutorily defined "next friend" but the Court of Appeals has held that a putative father is a proper next friend for purposes of a paternity action. Even though R.J. was barred in filing his own action, he is not time barred by filing as next friend for E.L. The time limitations defined in statute don't apply when the petitioner is the child.

"Ultimately, the trial court erred in dismissing the paternity petition with respect to E.L. because no Indiana statute sets forth applicable grounds for dismissing a paternity petition filed on behalf of a minor child by a next friend," the judge wrote.

The Court of Appeals remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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