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‘Non-Parent’ Has Standing Under Paternity Statement

Deborah Elkins//November 20, 2012

‘Non-Parent’ Has Standing Under Paternity Statement

Deborah Elkins//November 20, 2012

Although appellant did not prove he is the biological father of a child, the mother is bound by her agreement acknowledging appellant’s paternity and describing him as the child’s natural father, for all intents and purposes; the Court of Appeals reverses the trial court order finding appellant to be a non-parent with no right of visitation.

The Acknowledgement of Paternity executed by the parties advised that the parties could seek advice of counsel and request blood tests or have paternity determined by a court. The agreement specifically stated it was entered into without fraud, duress or material mistake of fact. The child’s birth certificate listed appellant as the child’s father, and he held himself out as her father, along with the parties’ biological child. Appellant claimed both children as dependents for income tax purposes and testified that he obtained health insurance for them.

The parties’ relationship ended in 2008, and appellant was awarded primary physical custody of both children, with shared legal custody. The mother did not contest the child’s paternity until 2010.

Courts must give binding and conclusive effect to voluntary statements of paternity that are executed, as was the case here, in the absence of fraud, duress or a material mistake of fact – consistent with the intent of the General Assembly as evidenced by the plain language of Code § 20-49. In this case, the parties executed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity at the time of the child’s birth that listed appellant as the father; neither party sought to rescind the acknowledgement within 60 days of signing it; and the statement of facts in lieu of a transcript explicitly states there was no evidence that the Acknowledgement of Paternity resulted from fraud, duress or a material mistake of fact.

It is clear the circuit court erred when it found that appellant was a “non-parent” of the child and lacked standing to seek custody or visitation.

Reversed and remanded.

Woodall v. Lagerquist (Beales) No. 2121-11-3, Nov. 20, 2012; Staunton Cir.Ct. (Ludwig) C. Lynn Lawson for appellant; No brief/argument for appellee. VLW 012-7-325(UP), 15 pp.



VLW 012-7-325

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