Jacqueline L. Kemp and Lauren A. Kemp recently teamed up to win an appeal in a case of first impression. Our client had a prior relationship with the mother. The two had a child but the mother refused our client’s attempts to conduct genetic testing to determine whether or not he was the father. While still pregnant, the mother’s then-boyfriend submitted to genetic testing wherein it was determined that there was a 99.9% chance that he was not the father. In spite of these conclusive test results, the boyfriend signed the child’s birth certificate stating that he was, in fact, the father. The boyfriend and the mother ultimately got married and several years later the boyfriend, now husband, signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit that was delivered to the Ohio Department of Health, Vital Statistics.
When the child was 10 years old, the mother and the husband got a divorce that was concluded when they agreed to the divorce and filed an Agreed Judgment Entry and Decree of Divorce in July 2012, which included a finding that the husband and the mother were the parents of the child.
Then in March 2016, the mother filed a motion to vacate the divorce decree and the shared parenting plan under Ohio Civil Rule 60(B). On behalf of the mother, it was alleged that the Agreement Judgment Entry should be vacated because the trial court had been fraudulently misled about the actual paternity of the child and that our client was purportedly the father. On May 25, 2016, the trial court filed another Agreed Judgment Entry, this time granting the mother’s motion and disestablishing the father-child relationship between the child and the husband.
On June 15, 2016, our client, who the mother had now sued in juvenile court in an effort to now establish his paternity of the child, filed a motion to intervene as of right and a motion to set aside the new Agreed Judgment Entry. The trial court recognized that intervention was proper, granted the motion to intervene and on behalf of our client we immediately filed a Notice of Appeal challenging the new Agreed Judgment Entry that disestablished the parent-child relationship between the husband and the child.
With issues never before placed before an appellate court in Ohio, the Tenth District ruled in our client’s favor. The Appellate Court decided that our client had standing to appeal the Agreed Judgment Entry. The Court found that the disestablishment of the husband’s paternity of the child precluded the mother from challenging our client’s paternity of the child in the juvenile court case since the husband had already established himself as the child’s father. On that basis the appellate court then went on find in favor of our client and to reverse the trial court’s decision. In doing so, the Court found that the trial court erred in disestablishing the husband’s paternity of the child since the husband knew he was not the child’s natural father when he signed the acknowledgment of paternity under Ohio Revised Code Section 3119.962. Our client prevailed in this case even though it involved issues that have never been in front of Ohio’s Appellate Courts.