ILNews

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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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