Hughes v. Hughes, 2012-CA-000077-ME
Ex-Husband appealed FC’s order denying his CR 60.02 to terminate child support for child not biologically related to him.
While Husband was serving in the Navy, Wife filed for divorce. Paternity of the four minor children was not placed an issue in the petition. Subsequent to the filing of the petition, but prior to entry of the decree, the parties submitted privately to paternity testing of the youngest child. The Decree of Dissolution was entered prior to the parties’ receipt of the result of the paternity test. The Decree ordered child support for all four children. Subsequently, the parties received the results of paternity testing indicating that the youngest child was not the biological child of Ex-Husband. Ex-Husband continued to pay full amount of child support. Some years later all four children learned that Ex-Husband was not youngest child’s biological father.
All of Ex-Husband’s biological children were emancipated by 2010. Ex-Husband nonetheless continued to pay the full amount of child support for his unemancipated, not biologically related child. Ex-Husband’s income had increased substantially at this time, while Ex-Wife was receiving state assistance due to her status as a full-time student with a part-time job. Thus, in 2011, the Cabinet filed a motion to intervene and to modify child support on Ex-Wife’s behalf. In response, Ex-Husband filed a CR 60.02 motion to terminate child support based on emancipation of his three biological children and the fourth child being not biologically related. FC denied 60.02 motion, finding that it was not filed within a reasonable time, and Ex-Husband was therefore estopped from seeking relief from his child support obligation. FC also increased child support from $863.64 to $1,009.00 per month for the nonbiologically related child.
“Reasonable time” requirement of CR 60.02 is within FC’s discretion. Given that Ex-Husband had known since 2001 that he was not the biological father of the youngest child but continued to act as her legal father, FC did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion. Further, it was not necessary for FC to consider whether doctrine of paternity by estoppel was implicated, as requested in Ex-Husband’s CR 52.04 motion. CA held that FC correctly ascertained that the legality of Ex-Husband’s fatherhood is sufficient in this case to allow for the payment of child support. It is in youngest child’s best interest for her legal father, Ex-Husband, to contribute adequate child support and supportive parenting.