Most Maryland child custody and paternity cases revolve around instances where the mother is trying to get the father to recognize paternity of a child. A recent court case dealt with a role reversal, where a man who turned out not to be the child’s father wanted to continue to play a role in the child’s life against the mother’s wishes.
Early Stages of the Case
“In looking at this case, we find ourselves in an improbable hall of mirrors in which the customary roles are eerily reversed. Maryland Code, Family Law Article, Sect. 5–1028 provides for an ‘Affidavit of parentage.’ The appellant, Samantha Boone, however, invokes it to ask for a declaration of non-parentage. It is frequently the unwed mother who seeks to establish the paternity of the biological father in order to ensure child support. It is the unwed mother herein, however, who seeks to disenfranchise the legally established paternity of the appellee, John Youngbar. Conversely, it is frequently the putative father who shrinks from a designation as the father. It is the unwed father herein, however, who is fighting to retain his legally established paternal status. Up is down and in is out,” Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals, wrote in its opinion.
Details Surrounding the Family
Samantha Boone and John Youngbar lived together for about three years. Although Boone engaged in a short relationship with another man during that time, she believed that Youngbar was the father of the girl who was born during the time that she and Youngbar lived together.
Boone and Yongbar signed an “Affidavit of Parentage” relating to the child. The affidavit allows unmarried parents of a child to establish legal parentage under Maryland law. The affidavit can be rescinded – cancelled – in two circumstances. Either of the parties on the affidavit can rescind it within 60 days of its being signed. If more than 60 days have passed, the affidavit can only be rescinded in instances of fraud, duress or material mistake of fact.
When the couple separated, they agreed to a shared custodial arrangement for the child of one week on and one week off. The Maryland child custody agreement continued until the mother filed a petition in court to establish paternity, or as the court described it “actually a petition to disestablish paternity.” Boone said in the petition that she had discovered that Youngbar was not the baby’s father and asked the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County to order a DNA test to confirm that Youngbar was not the child’s biological father.
In a later court filing, Boone said the paternity test had been done and that it showed that Youngbar was not the child’s biological father. In addition, another man had taken a paternity test that showed that he was the biological father of the child.
Youngbar asked that the petition to “disestablish paternity” be dismissed. The court noted that Youngbar was “deeply involved in raising her” and was currently litigating custody and visitation rights over the child in another court case. The trial court granted the father’s request.
Petition Dismissed by Court
When the case came up on appeal, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals agreed with the trial court’s decision to dismiss the mother’s petition.
The Affidavit of Parentage was being challenged on the basis of a material mistake of fact, the court said. But, the court noted, the father, who might have been led by the mother to mistakenly believe that he was the biological father had not shown a desire to rescind anything.
The court said the case had similarities to adopting. “A case in point is that of legal adoption. The adoptive father, in the overwhelming majority of cases, is not the biological father of the adopted child. From the day of adoption forward, however, the adoptive father is the unchallengeable legal father, impervious to claims based on blood-tests or DNA analysis,” the appeals court said in the opinion.
An experienced Baltimore family law attorney can help you with your Maryland family law divorce, child support and custody issues. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling Maryland family law cases. You can contact Thomas Maronick at 410.244.5068 or via our website for a free consultation.