ISSUE: Whether a man, with whom Mother admits having an affair and living with for about fifteen months-until mere days before Child’s birth-is entitled to know whether Child is his biological son.
Mother gave birth to Child May 16, 2011. Mother claims that her Ex-Husband, with whom she plans to remarry, is the father and listed him as such on Child’s birth certificate. Despite an order from the Family Court compelling Mother to undergo genetic testing for herself and Child, neither was tested due to Mother’s maneuverings. The Family Court entered an order following a hearing on a paternity complaint by Putative Father.
The Family Court found Mother in contempt of multiple orders from the Family Court, which ordered her to submit herself and Child to genetic testing by a later date or serve 180 days in jail. Mother refused to comply with the Family Court’s orders.
Mother alleged that she and Child should not have been ordered to complete the genetic testing because no state action was involved; Putative Father did not qualify as such under KRS 406.21 and could not challenge paternity; Ex-Husband was presumed to be Child’s father because Child was born less than five months before the parties’ divorce; the Family Court’s order violated Mother and Child’s constitutional right to privacy; and the Family Court should not have ordered the maximum contempt penalty for Mother’s failure to comply with the court’s order.
KRS Chapter 406 is the means by which courts determine fatherhood. While a child born during lawful wedlock may be presumed to be the husband’s child under KRS 406.11, that presumption is rebuttable, so that a legal finding of paternity is not denied to a putative father. KRS 406.091(2) mandates genetic testing upon a request of a party supported by an affidavit. Putative Father in this case made such a request, and it was the Family Court’s duty to order the genetic testing. Mother should have requested written findings of fact and conclusions of law from the Family Court regarding whether Putative Father qualifies as a putative father under the statute and whether he had standing to assert a claim of paternity. However, Putative Father presented sufficient evidence on the record that he had sufficient access to Mother to make him Child’s father. Mother and Putative Father lived together at the time of conception and engaged in sexual relations, and Putative Father was present when Mother took a pregnancy test, which was subsequently confirmed by a doctor. Mother told Putative Father repeatedly that he was Child’s father during the pregnancy, and Putative Father provided Mother with food, shelter, clothing and medical care during the pregnancy. Putative Father also opposed abortion and adoption options when they were presented by Mother. Thus, Putative Father had standing to challenge paternity and request genetic testing. Holding otherwise would deny Putative Father the right to prove his claim of paternity and deny Child the right to develop a relationship with his biological father. Furthermore, Mother offered no proof that would exclude Putative Father as a potential father of Child, especially since she told an Ohio family court in proceedings with Ex-Husband that she was not pregnant.
Mother was ordered to complete genetic testing on herself and Child on four separate occasions and violated each order. The 180 day jail sentence for contempt was completely appropriate. Her attempts to halt Putative Father’s claims and the fact that she could have purged the contempt by complying with the Family Court’s order was sufficient to uphold the sentence. Digested by: McKenzie Cantrell, Attorney, of counsel, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates