Case Summary: Asia A. M. v. Geoffrey M., 182 Conn. App. 22, 188 A.3d 762 (2018)

Officially released May 15, 2018.

In short: an acknowledgment of paternity will not be overturned after sixty days except for fraud, mistake or duress, even in the event of a scientific certainty that the determination of paternity is wrong.

Father and Mother executed an acknowledgement of paternity pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-172(a)(1).  Three years later the state filed a support petition against the Father in the name of the Mother.  Father thereafter filed a motion to open the Judgment pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat § 46b-172 alleging fraud, mistake of fact and duress.  Father was biologically excluded from paternity by a DNA test.

The magistrate explicitly determined that Father failed to prover fraud, mistake or duress.  However, the magistrate opened the Judgment on the basis that Ragin v. Lee, 78 Conn. App. 848, 829 A.2d 93 (2003) permitted the magistrate to open the judgment based on the best interest of the child and the child’s fundamental right to an accurate determination of paternity.  The trial court affirmed on appeal.  The State appealed to the Appellate Court.

The GAL and Father attempted to pursue a line of argument that a fraud had been committed upon the State and the child, and the child’s biological father, given the finding of the magistrate that both Father and Mother knew that Father was not the biological father of the child at the time they signed the acknowledgment.  The Appellate Court did not address these claims as they were not raised at trial.

The Appellate Court determined that Ragin v. Lee did not provide a fourth independent non-statutory ground for opening an acknowledgement of paternity and that the court’s inherent authority did not permit opening the judgment absent statutory authority, regardless of the child’s best interest.  “Beyond the sixty day rescission period, and absent a finding of fraud duress, or material mistake of fact, the magistrate did not have authority to grant the motion to open the judgment.”

Judge Keller provided a concurring opinion suggesting that the legislature should amend the statute to require DNA testing to accompany an acknowledgement of paternity.