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Acknowledgement of paternity can be challenged due to fraud.  Matter of Philip E. v. Linda C., 84 N.Y.2d 618 (1994)


Establishing paternity is an essential step in ensuring that a child receives the care, support, and protection that they need. In New York, paternity can be established voluntarily, through an Acknowledgment of Paternity, or involuntarily, through a court proceeding. An Acknowledgment of Paternity is a legal document signed by both parents that acknowledges the paternity of the child. However, an Acknowledgment of Paternity can be challenged if it is shown that it was signed as a result of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. In the Matter of Philip E. v. Linda C., the putative father challenged the Acknowledgement of Paternity that he signed.

Factual Background
In 1991, Linda C. gave birth to a child, and Philip E. was named as the father on the birth certificate. However, Philip E. later denied paternity and refused to pay child support. In response, Linda C. initiated a paternity proceeding in Family Court to establish Philip E.’s paternity and obtain child support.

Philip E. argued that he was not the father and that Linda C. had fraudulently induced him into signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity. He claimed that Linda C. had told him that he was the only man she had been intimate with during the relevant time period and that she had promised to return the signed document to him after it had been filed with the Office of Vital Records.

At the hearing, Linda C. testified that she had not made any promises to Philip E. and that she had not told him that he was the only man she had been intimate with. She presented evidence that Philip E. had been involved in the child’s life since birth, had referred to the child as his son, and had even paid for the child’s medical bills.

The Family Court found that Philip E. had failed to meet his burden of proving fraud and that he was the father of the child. Philip E. appealed the decision to the Appellate Division, which affirmed the lower court’s decision. Philip E. then appealed to the New York Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, holding that Philip E. had failed to meet his burden of proving fraud by clear and convincing evidence. The court noted that Philip E. had signed the Acknowledgment of Paternity voluntarily and that he had not provided any evidence to support his claim that Linda C. had fraudulently induced him into signing the document.

The court also stated that paternity can be established voluntarily or involuntarily, and that the standard of proof in an involuntary paternity proceeding is clear and convincing evidence. The court explained that the purpose of the clear and convincing evidence standard is to ensure that a person is not held responsible for the support of a child unless there is a high degree of probability that he or she is the biological father.

The court further held that once paternity has been established, a father is responsible for the support of his child, even if he later discovers that he is not the biological father. The court noted that the welfare of the child is the paramount concern in paternity proceedings and that a father cannot disavow his responsibility to support his child merely because he is not the biological father.

The holding in this case clarified that a putative father has the right to challenge a prior judgment of paternity if there is newly discovered evidence that was previously unknown or unavailable. The court recognized that the interests of the child, the putative father, and the mother must all be considered in determining whether to allow a challenge to paternity. This decision has significant implications for those seeking to establish or challenge paternity in New York.

In addition to the importance of establishing paternity, it is crucial to work with an experienced New York family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options, whether you are seeking to establish paternity, challenge paternity, or seek custody or support for your child. With their knowledge of complex family law matters, a skilled New York family law lawyer can help you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.

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