Father can’t challenge paternity 15 years after child’s birth

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The trial court properly denied a man’s petition to rescind or vacate the paternity affidavit he signed when he was 17 years old, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday. The appeals court declined to reweigh the evidence regarding his and the child mother’s credibility.

Tyrone Hutchins believed that T.H., born in September 1998, was his child. When he visited the child’s mother, Kellishia Kelly, in the hospital, he signed a paternity affidavit given to him by the nurse. At that time, he was a minor in foster care and resided in a group home. Three years later, Hutchins was granted visitation and in 2002, the court ordered Hutchins to pay child support.

In 2008, Hutchins requested a paternity test, which was denied by the trial judge, who noted nearly 10 years had passed since he signed the affidavit. Then, in 2013, Hutchins filed a petition to rescind or vacate paternity affidavit. He asserted coercion, duress and mistake of fact during the signing of the affidavit.

The trial court denied his petition, noting father never mentioned DNA testing until 2008 and he believed himself to be the child’s father when he signed the affidavit.

Indiana law gives fathers 60 days to request genetic testing and rescind paternity affidavits. But since Hutchins did not act within that window, he now argued that it should be rescinded because he was a minor acting under duress. He claimed the baby’s mother and grandmother said he would not be able to visit the child unless he signed the affidavit.

Hutchins also believes current statute – which does require that someone under the age of 18 have an opportunity to consult with an adult before signing a paternity affidavit – should encourage the court to grant his petition. He said the change in the law “highlights the problematic and coercive situation” he was operating under as a minor.

In In Re the Paternity of T.H., Tyrone Hutchins, Jr. v. Kellishia Kelly, 84A05-1404-JP-161, the COA rejected his arguments, noting it has repeatedly emphasized that allowing a party to challenge paternity when a party has previously acknowledged himself to be the father should only be allowed in extreme and rare circumstances. This case is not one of those cases.

“Despite numerous court appearances since 2000, Father did not raise the issue of rescinding the paternity affidavit until September 14, 2013 —curiously after all his requests for modification of child support fell for naught. Stripped to its bare essence, Father’s argument boils down to an invitation to reweigh his and Mother’s credibility and to find in his favor — this task which is not reserved for us,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

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