Yesterday, we began our saga of our fictional new parents Kate and Nate. But last week, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a decision on a real life Kate and Nate. We don’t normally post on Fridays, but we thought the new appellate opinion paralleled some of the concerns expressed by Nate in yesterday’s post.
In yesterday’s blog entry, Nate felt uncomfortable signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity because his friends indicated to him that Kate may not have been completely faithful during the relationship and in particular during the time of Tate’s conception. In last weeks’ opinion in Venable v. Parker, the Father had signed the Paternity Acknowledgement (PA), had entered into a settlement agreement establishing paternity and child support, and had consented to an income deduction order to have the child support deducted from his wages. The trial court entered a final order incorporating the parties’ settlement agreement. After all that, the Father asked the court to set aside the Final Order establishing Paternity because of fraud and misrepresentation. He testified that he had filed his motion to set aside the order because he had found out that the Mother had various sexual partners during the time she conceived. He also provided contradictory testimony that he knew she had other sexual partners and was doubtful when he signed the Paternity Acknowledgement.
The trial court denied his motion to set aside stating that he had not met his burden in disestablishing paternity but ordered the father and the child to submit to a DNA test. We’ll discuss the disestablishment of paternity in a later blog post. In their opinion, the appellate court said that the trial court could not require genetic testing when it denied the Father’s motion to set aside.
So what can we learn from our real life Nate? In our fictional saga, Nate had doubts and he acted on those doubts. It was probably uncomfortable for him to voice his wishes to Kate. He probably felt like a real jerk. Kate surely thinks he is a jerk. When he decided not to sign, he probably wondered about whether he was going to leave a small baby in a dependent state and fatherless. Maybe his parents or Kate’s parents were disappointed with his decision. But we think that Nate made the right decision. The cost of a DNA test is inconsequential compared to having to appeal a case such as Venable. Not to mention, the peace of mind that comes from a DNA test-- no lingering questions such as “does he look like me?”
The real life Nate, the Father in Venable, had doubts and failed to act on those doubts. He went with the flow and then later it appears that he regrets those choices. He may have thought he was doing the honorable thing by ensuring that the child had a father. Maybe he thought he could easily get out of the choices he made. But the law tells us “public policy is not advanced by the disestablishment of legitimacy and paternity.” See In the Interest of T. W., 288 Ga. App. 386, 389. Interestingly, he also testified that the Mother had threatened to tell his wife about the affair and the child if he did not sign the PA. It seems that our real life Nate would have been in less legal turmoil had he followed one simple rule: keep it zipped.
If you would like to read the opinion in Venable v. Parker, you can find it on Lexis’ free service here. The Lexis citation is 2011 Ga. App. LEXIS 98.