PA Appellate Cases involving Paternity
- Gebler v. Gatti and Sisson – PA appellate court held that doctrine of presumption of paternity is not applicable for children born out of wedlock since there is no intact marriage to protect. Doctrine of paternity by estoppel whereby a parent cannot deny the parentage of a child that they have held out to be their own cannot be applied to hold alleged father to a support obligation when mother of child misrepresented facts to alleged father and claimed that he was the only man she had sexual relations with during time of conception. Even when alleged father held child out to be his own, if alleged father discontinues relationship with child after learning of misrepresentation, facts may preclude application of paternity by estoppel doctrine thereby terminating alleged father’s child support obligation and rights regarding visitation or custody.
- JF v. DB – PA Superior Court refused to comment on validity of surrogacy contracts. Fetus was conceived through use of sperm donated by father that was used to artificially inseminate eggs donated by an egg donor. The appellate court determined that the gestational carrier of fetus lacked standing to challenge biological father’s custody of triplets and also lacked standing to seek termination of the parental rights of the egg donor.
- Moyer v. Gresh and Gresh – Mother was pregnant when she met what would become her future husband. At the time when the child was born, mother was married to her husband. Her husband supported the child emotionally and financially. The PA Superior Court held that the doctrine of paternity by estoppel applied as the husband had always held the child out to be his own and that the true biological father could not file a custody complaint and seek custody rights as he was aware of husband’s role in child’s life.
- N.C. v. M.H. – Wife who had affair during marriage and gave birth to a child that was raised by wife and her husband for 10 years was not permitted to obtain child support from her husband when he was not the biological father, wife hid her affair from her husband, and the parties were divorcing. The Superior Court found that neither the presumption of paternity of a child born during the marriage nor paternity by estoppel should be applied in this case.
- Hogrelius v. Martin – Trial court’s grant of mother’s request to relocate from Pennsylvania to Virginia was affirmed by Superior Court when the mother sought to relocate to reside with her new husband whose income afforded mother the opportunity to not work and provided the mother and the child a greater standard of living. In addressing the third prong of the Gruber relocation analysis, the Superior Court held that the trial court’s determination is not whether the alternative schedule would maintain the current level of the non-custodial parent’s interaction with the children, but rather whether the substitute arrangements will foster adequately an ongoing relationship between the non-custodial parent and the children.
- Ottolini v. Barrett – The Superior Court held that all interviews of children in child custody litigation must be done with a court reporter present and in the presence of counsel who shall be afforded an opportunity to question the children under the court’s supervision. The Superior Court further held that it was an error for the trial court to consider the report of an expert who the court directed to perform a custody evaluation without the expert appearing for the purpose of cross-examination.
- N.H.M. v. P.O.T. – The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that transfer of primary custody of child from mother in Pennsylvania to father in California was appropriate when child had suffered emotional harm as result of sexual abuse in mother’s home. The fact that the child’s interview by the judge was not transcribed was held to be harmless error since testimony from other witnesses including mother confirmed the sexual contact between the child and another child living in the residence.
- A.J.B.v. M.P.B. – The PA Superior Court found that the trial court committed an error when it qualified an individual holding a doctorate degree in mass communications as an expert and allowed her to testify regarding the impact on the brain of watching pornography. The Superior Court held that the expert could not testify as to the impact of father watching pornography and any consequences it might have on his child rearing and thus the expert’s information was irrelevant to the custody determination and should have be excluded from trial.
- Billhime v. Billhime – The Superior Court held that where minor children had relocated to Florida, Pennsylvania did not maintain a significant connection to the children and that jurisdiction to hear a modification of the existing PA custody order should have been transferred to Florida for a determination.
- Hopkins v. Byes – The PA Superior Court held that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion by imposing $500 attorney’s fees as a sanction for the mother’s failure to abide by a custody order, without first ascertaining mother’s ability to pay the sanction.
- Glover v. Severino, Sr. – The Superior Court held that in cases where a man has held himself out as the father of a child may nevertheless be entitled to paternity testing and the right to challenge parentage of a child when evidence exists that the mother may have committed fraud and not informed the alleged father that she had other sexual relations that may have resulted in the pregnancy.
- Wieland v. Wieland v. Dillon, Jr. – The mother of the child was married, but separated from her husband when the child was born. The mother named her then boyfriend as the father on the birth certificate and allowed the boyfriend to raise the child for the next several years. After the relationship with the boyfriend ended, the mother filed a complaint for support against her former husband without the former boyfriend’s knowledge, and paternity testing revealed that the former husband was the child’s biological father. The former boyfriend and ex-husband both sought to have the former boyfriend declared the legal father under a paternity by estoppel argument. The court ruled that since the mother had informed the child of the DNA results, paternity by estoppel would not be applied and the biological father would be forced to pay support. The Superior Court however noted that its decision would not impact any potential child custody litigation. Wieland v. Wieland v. Dillon, Jr. 2008 PA Super 98
- In Re: Z.S.W., a/k/a Z.J. – Termination of parental rights case involving biological father who did not come forward to claim his paternity until after child was already dependent and who did not seek to establish relationship with child even after paternity test confirmed his parentage. In Re: Z.S.W., a/k/a Z.J., 2008 PA Super 55
- B.K.B. v. J.G.K. v. M.M.K. – Biological father’s custody case dismissed when he had affair with mother while she was married and knew that mother’s husband believed and acted as if he was the true father of the minor child. Fact that the mother and her husband were now divorced did not allow biological father to assert a fraud allegation to prevent paternity by estoppel being used to benefit of mother’s husband. Court found no fraud against biological father since he knew of mother’s deceit to her husband and allowed it to continue. B.K.B. v. J.G.K. v. M.M.K., 2008 PA Super 164
- Lebanon County CYS v. Wagner – County child welfare agency may be estopped from seeking paternity testing against alleged biological father when mother named her former husband as biological parent on birth certificate and allowed former husband to act as parent to child. Lebanon County CYS v. Wagner, 2008 PA Super 102
NOTE: The cases listed are for informational purposes only and may have been amended or overturned by subsequently decided court cases.