In December of 2014, Susan was 69 years old. She brought a cause of action
to establish a parental relationship from a man [Man] who had died 19
years before. She wanted to have him declared as her
putative father. She filed her petition against the executor of Man’s estate, but
later agreed to substitute a special administrator [Administrator] in
place of the executor.
putative father is thepresumed father and is the
legal father. He has all the rights and responsibilities of a father, even if he is
not the biological father.
Man died in 1985. He had a will. The will was executed and probated was
completed by 1993.
Susan’s petition stated that she did not want any money or share
in Man’s estate. She only wanted the court to establish that he
was her putative father.
Administrator moved to dismiss Susan’s petition because she gave
no argument that the court could help her with. She wanted the court to
determine that Man was her father with no request for any relief or payments
of any kind. Administrator specifically argued that Susan “does
not stand to suffer any degree of injury in this matter, and only seeks
to invoke the judicial process for apparently personal reasons.”
Without some sort of injury, the court has nothing to resolve.
The trial court agreed with Administrator: “Here, Petitioner is not
a young child whose social and emotional strength and stability are at
issue. The probate estate is closed precluding any financial interest
in the deceased’s estate. Petitioner does not have a social relationship
to maintain or create. The object of the paternity laws to protect a child’s
well-being is not achieved by this suit. As her stated father has long
since died, he cannot accept or contest the claim of paternity.”
The Appellate Court agreed with Susan
“The establishment of the parent-child relationship is the most fundamental
right a child possesses to be equated in importance with personal liberty
and the most basic of constitutional rights…. This leads to the
conclusion that [Susan] has a personal stake in the outcome of the paternity
action, [that is] the accurate identification of her father and other
collateral benefits such as the ability to amend her birth certificate
and to develop a relationship with family members.”