Paternity is often a factor in cases involving child support, custody, adoption and inheritance. Paternity proceedings are more often utilized for unmarried couples, because when a child is born to a married couple, the legal presumption is that the husband is the child's father.
However, Minnesota readers may be interested in a recent Chicago case in which a married mother had an extramarital affair that resulted in a child. An interesting element of this particular case is that after paternity was established, the court continually ruled that the family can keep it a secret from the child.
The very unusual case stems from a situation almost two decades ago when the married mother had a five-year affair with a married man.
The woman told her husband about the affair when the boy was 3 - two months before the biological father began to seek visitation. DNA testing confirmed the biological father's paternity, but he was denied visitation rights. The reason for this was not given in the news report.
The legal battle has dragged on for more than 12 years, leading to several appellate court decisions and one Supreme Court decision - related to both the paternity case and a legal adoption case by the boy's mother and her husband. Court decisions have gone back and forth. The state Supreme Court said in 2007 that the married couple was going through adoption proceedings solely to stall the biological father from gaining visitation. But, an appellate court said the next year that the biological father was being litigious to punish the mother for ending the affair.
The boy is now 16, and the battle continues. An appeals court just last month denied visitation again to the biological father, who was representing himself, and found that the boy should not be told that the man he thinks is his dad is not his biological father. The court's protection ends when the boy turns 18.
The details of this case were not presented in the news report because most of the related records are sealed. Paternity cases are meant to establish a parent's rights and obligations to his child, so it is likely that there are some unusual circumstances involved in this case. However, this story does demonstrate the importance of effective legal representation in family law cases. This father's visitation appeals appear to have lasted nearly the entire length of the boy's childhood.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "In Paternity dispute, family can withhold biological father's identity from teen, court rules," Steve Schmadeke, Jan. 2, 2012