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Paternity by Estoppel: Can This Really Happen?

Paternity by Estoppel is a legal doctrine that is now accepted by the New York State Court of Appeals.  This doctrine holds that a man can be required to pay child support for a child if it is proven beyond any doubt that he is NOT the biological father of this child.

In the matter of Shondel v. Mark D., the New York State Court of Appeals held as follows:

“In this child support proceeding, we hold that a man who has mistakenly represented himself as a child’s father may be estopped from denying paternity, and made to pay child support, when the child justifiably relied on the man’s representation of paternity, to the child’s detriment.  We reached this conclusion based on the best interest of the child as set forth by the legislature.”

In the aforementioned case, the father of the child had seen the child approximately four times during the child’s life.  However, he had held himself out to be the child’s father.  He had provided the child with financial support.  He had also signed an affidavit authorizing the child to use his name.

The New York State of Appeals rendered a decision that this man’s actions caused the child to justifiably rely on these representations that he was the child’s father.  The court further reasoned that it was now in the child’s best interest to prevent the father from denying the paternity, even though the DNA proved beyond question that this man was not the child’s father. Therefore, this man was forced to continue to pay child support for a child that was not his.

Paternity by Estoppel

This case and subsequent cases should be a warning to all men.  If you are not absolutely certain you are the father of a child, you should demand a DNA paternity test.  You should not sign an acknowledgment of paternity unless you are absolutely sure you are the father of the child.

If you undertake to provide support for a child, visit with a child or hold yourself out as being the father of a child, should you later find that you are not the biological father of the child, you will be estopped (prevented) from making this argument in court.

Mens’ Rights/Fathers’ Rights Attorneys

Men need advocates in court.  Both fathers and men who find themselves in the Family Court and/or the Supreme Court sometimes run into a hornets’ nest.  The system, in many situations, favors mothers and women.

The Fathers’ Rights defense lawyers at the Law Office of Elliot S. Schlissel litigate issues involving paternity, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), visitation rights, relocation issues, as well as Orders of Protection and child abuse and child neglect allegations.   We handle all aspects of representing fathers concerning their rights and responsibilities in divorces, equitable distribution of their assets and issues involving parental alienation.  We negotiate separation agreements and we try to amicably resolve our cases whenever it is possible.  Feel free to call us at 1-800-344-6431; 516-561-6645 or 718-350-2802.

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