Judges rule father may tell daughter he's her dad

February 19, 2015

An out-of-state father may tell his 6-year-old daughter that he is her dad, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in reversing that part of a trial court's orders.

“(W)e find error regarding the trial court's denial of Father's request to tell M.A. he is her father,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the panel in In re the Paternity of Snyder, M.S. v. D.A., 79A02-1407-JP-497. The court otherwise affirmed a modification order that continued to restrict father's contact with his daughter to weekly 15-minute supervised Skype sessions.

Because there had been an allegation of domestic violence against mother in this case, a therapist told the court that she didn't believe father had “earned the title,” and that father would use this as leverage to seek more visitation time. The panel found this was not a legally sufficient basis for denying father the ability to proclaim his status to his child.

“Father's parental status is determined by statute; that is, once paternity is established or acknowledged, Father is M.A.'s birth parent,” May wrote. “Indeed, parental rights and responsibilities are so important that once paternity is established it may not be disestablished unless fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact is shown to have existed at the time the paternity affidavit was executed.”

The panel otherwise affirmed the trial court ruling concerning father's proposed modification of parenting time, holding that he has not demonstrated there was a change in circumstances to warrant a change in the parenting time that now permits him only the weekly Skype sessions.



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