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Court Hears Reverse Paternity Proceeding


In this case, Matthew G. Czajak is the petitioner and Donna A. Vavonese is the respondent.

The Background

The Family Court Act provides jurisdiction over paternity to Family Court only when determining issues of support. The Family Court does not have the authority to ascertain status except when involved in adoption proceedings. A New York Custody Lawyer said that a father looking to establish paternity when the child is being supported by the mother’s ex-husband cannot be determined here due to the court’s lack of jurisdiction.

This type of case is commonly called a “reverse paternity proceeding”. Basically, although the ex-husband is listed on the birth certificate of the child and is now paying child support to the mother, the plaintiff is seeking to request a determination of paternity.

Both parties recollect differently the events leading up to the child’s birth. The petitioner’s mother and wife back up his version of events, while the respondent’s mother and ex-husband support her account of the chronology. The petitioner claims that their sexual relationship began in September of 1974, while the respondent claims that it did not begin until after the child was born.

According to the respondent, she only had a sexual relationship with her then-husband during 1974. The ex-husband agrees that they were engaged in a relationship of this nature during the window where conception must have occurred, and that no birth-control method was employed by them during this time. Events that follow the birth of the child complicate this otherwise seemingly simple matter.

Because of the marital problems she had with her husband, the respondent began a campaign to aid herself in obtaining a divorce. She began to send cards to the petitioner that were signed care of the child and sent to “Daddy”. He saved those cards and submitted them as evidence in the case.

In the initial divorce case, the former husband testified that the respondent told him that he was not the child’s father. The divorce was awarded, and the husband was ordered to pay $350 per month in child support to the respondent who had custody of the two children. He has since testified that the child is his. He often visits with the child as well.

Legal Issues

A Queens Family Lawyer said paternity law evolved to help provide the means of supporting children without exclusively relying on the assistance of the state. Family Court was granted jurisdiction over paternity issues as of 1962. Article 5 of the Family Court’s legislative history shows that establishing support for the child is the main reason that paternity cases are pursued. The financial welfare of the child is the primary concern in such cases. It is important to note that the husband of the mother in a paternity case is not a necessary party to a paternity legal matter.

Filiation and legitimacy is not the same thing. In New York, a child may become legitimate through adoption or the marriage of its parents, or by a judgment issued by the court. A Nassau County Family Lawyer said a legitimated child gets full legal status, but filiation does not provide this. Filiation entitles a child to make a claim against a parent’s estate however, whereas a legitimate child has no claim against an estate that does not specify them as a beneficiary in a will.

Because paternity suits are aimed primarily at establishing support for the child, a case must be made that a child is not being properly supported in order for a paternity case to be valid. Essentially, the laws are in place in a situation such as this to ensure that if the husband of the mother of the child was not providing properly for the child that she could seek judgment against the “father” of the child in order to obtain support for it.


Because the child was supported properly, the court decided it did not need to assess the evidence in question to determine paternity, and the petition was dismissed.

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