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Man bound by admission of paternity

If a man acknowledges paternity of a child, mistakenly believing that he is the father, he can get that determination vacated.

But if he knows he’s not the father, but acknowledges paternity anyway, he’s stuck with the consequences of his admission.

Kristopher M.W. was born to Joni K.W. in Michigan in 2000. Joni and Daniel T.W. signed a Michigan Affidavit of Parentage, even though they knew that Daniel was not the father.

Daniel and Joni later married and moved to Wisconsin.

After they separated, and Joni and Kristopher returned to Michigan, the state of Michigan sought to compel Daniel to pay child support.

Based on DNA tests showing that Daniel was not the father, the trial court dismissed the action.

In 2006, Daniel filed for divorce in Wisconsin, and the trial court appointed a GAL for Kristopher. After a hearing, the court held that Daniels’s acknowledgement of paternity in 2000 established that he was the father, and the 2001 judgment to the contrary was erroneous.

Daniel appealed, but the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed, in a decision by Judge Charles P. Dykman.

At issue is a subsection of sec. 767.805. Subsection (5)(a) provides: “A determination of paternity that arises under [a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity] may be voided at any time upon a motion or petition stating facts that show fraud, duress or a mistake of fact.”

However, subsec. (5)(b) provides: “If a court in a proceeding under par. (a) determines that the male is not the father of the child …. [n]o paternity action may thereafter be brought against the male with respect to the child.”

The court affirmed the finding of Daniel’s paternity, notwithstanding subsec. (5)(b) and the DNA tests, because it concluded he failed to show fraud, duress, or mistake of fact

under subsec. (5)(a).

Because he knew he was not Kristopher’s father when he signed the affidavit, the court found that any fraud that existed was perpetrated by him, rather than against him.

Nor could he claim mistake of fact, because he knew he was not the father when he signed the affidavit.

Accordingly, the court held that the 2001 order did not void the Michigan admission of parentage, and Daniel is bound by his admission.

Analysis

The court’s opinion is likely to be difficult to apply in practice.

Where, as here, the man admits paternity, despite knowing he is not the father, he will be bound by that admission.

At the opposite extreme, where he is defrauded into admitting paternity by the mother, he may claim fraud, and be relieved from that admission.

However, many cases will arise in the middle –- a man will admit paternity despite not knowing whether or not he is the father.

The question will be, is that a mistake of fact, or willful ignorance of the facts?

In addition to this thorny legal question, the factual issues themselves will frequently be problematic.

Circuit courts may have to make difficult credibility determinations to decide whether the father knew he was not the father, was lied to about being the father, or didn’t know.

In addition, the hearings may occur many years after the birth. In the case at bar, for example, the paternity action occurred six years later.

It seems likely in these cases that the equitable considerations will weigh against a finding of fraud, duress, or mistake of fact.

On one side of the equitable scale will be a child in need of support.
On the other will be a man who signed an admission of paternity despite the fact that, pursuant to sec. 767.805(6)(a)3, he “received oral and written notice of the legal consequences of, the rights and responsibilities arising from and the alternatives to, singing the statement.”
Faced with this scenario, circuit courts are likely to be skeptical of men’s claims of fraud or mistake of fact.

2 comments

  1. Makes you think about acknowledging a child that is not yours. I agree that in most cases, the women has supressed the true fathers identity and the man/father is usually unawre that he has been duped. I do however feel that if he accepts paternity knowing he is not the father, he should honor his responsibilities. Australian man Liam Magill is a true victim of paternity fraud/deceit. Now US author Lea Anna Copper has written his true story. Read the synopsis at http://www.LeaAnnaCoopersEastofEden.com
    Cheryl King Anti PaternityFraud Advocate – kingcems@alphalink.com.au ph 61 416031145

  2. The only fair and reasonable thing to do going forward is to give a DNA test to establish paternity on the birth certificate. if there is no DNA test, there should be an affidavit from the man stating that he is refusing a DNA test. DNA is fair for the child too as the children have a right to know their genetic history for health and other reasons. the only persons that benefit from the absence of a DNA test at birth is deceitful mothers. it is time to stop robbing children of their right to have their genetic origin known to them and also time to stop the insanity associated with paternity fraud.

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