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G.R.B. v. L.J.B.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

March 30, 2018

G.R.B.
v.
L.J.B.

          Appeal from Clay Circuit Court (DR-17-900004)

          MOORE, JUDGE.

         G.R.B. ("the wife") appeals from a judgment entered by the Clay Circuit Court ("the trial court") divorcing her from L.J.B. ("the husband") to the extent that the trial court determined that the husband is not the father of G.P.B. ("the child"). We reverse the trial court's judgment.

         Procedural History

         On January 18, 2017, the husband filed a complaint seeking a divorce from the wife. He alleged, among other things, that he had signed the child's birth certificate as the father of the child but that he was not the child's biological father. The husband requested that the trial court order DNA testing to determine the child's paternity. On January 30, 2017, the wife answered and counterclaimed for a divorce. She alleged that the husband had had his name placed on the child's birth certificate with knowledge that he was not the child's biological father, that the husband "[had] chose[n] to act fully in the role of and [to] be the child's father in every way after acknowledging the child as his own at the child's birth, " that the husband and the child had "developed a father-child relationship for near[ly] ten years, " and that "[i]rreparable harm may result to the child if [the husband] is successfully disproved as the child's father." On February 2, 2017, the husband answered the wife's counterclaim.

         After a trial, the trial court entered a judgment on June 20, 2017, divorcing the parties and providing, in pertinent part:

"It is undisputed that the [husband] is not the biological father of the ... child, however he signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity at her birth. The child's biological mother is [R.H., ] the [wife's daughter from a previous relationship] and the [husband's] stepdaughter. Both parties testified that [R.H.] was addicted to drugs at the time of the birth of the ... child and [that the husband had] signed the acknowledgment in an effort to keep the child from being placed in foster care. The child is now 11 years old and has not seen the [husband] in approximately two years.
"The [husband] filed for divorce in this matter and has asked the Court to issue a ruling declaring him not to be the legal father of the ... child. Caselaw supports the [husband's] right to contest paternity of the ... child. However, in response the [wife] has asserted ... § 26-17-608 of the Alabama Code [1975, ] which serves to Estopp [sic] the denial of paternity based on several factors enumerated in the statute. Of those factors contained in the statute, the Court was concerned most with the nature and relationship of the child and the [husband].
"The Court heard extensive testimony regarding this factor. The parties both testified that [the child] was told that the [husband] is not her father but disputed at what time she was made aware of this. Additionally, both testified the child was aware of who her biological mother is and had known from an early age.
"The Court finds from the testimony that the [husband] was not held out to be [the child's] father and in fact the [wife] testified that she made a point to let people know he was not. Additionally, both parties testified that [R.H.] has been actively involved in [the child's] life. It appears from the testimony that the parentage of the child was not a secret to anyone and therefore will not adversely affect the ... child.
"Based upon the pleadings and testimony given it is ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED as follows[:]
"....
"5. That the [husband] is not the legal father of the ... child, ... and therefore shall not be ordered or required to pay child support to the [wife]."

         On July 18, 2017, the wife filed a postjudgment motion. That motion was denied on July 20, 2017. On August 28, 2017, the wife filed her notice of appeal.

         Facts

         The husband and the wife married on October 7, 1995, and no biological children were born of their marriage.[1] On June 20, 2004, the wife's daughter from a previous relationship, R.H., gave birth to the child. According to the parties, R.H. was using drugs at the time of the child's birth, and the parties had been concerned that the Department of Human Resources might place the child in foster care. It is undisputed that, because of the parties' concerns, the husband and R.H. had executed a form, which was made available by the Alabama Center for Health Statistics and entitled "State of Alabama Affidavit of Paternity, " representing that the husband was the father of the child. The husband admitted that he and the wife had taken the child into their home and that he and R.H. had subsequently consented to the wife's adopting the child. Both the husband and the wife testified that the child knows that R.H. is her biological mother and that R.H. has been involved in the child's life, albeit not consistently. Neither the husband nor the wife had knowledge of the identity of the child's biological father.

         The husband admitted that he had held himself out to be the child's father, had attended school functions as the child's father, had supported the child, and had taken the child fishing. The child bears the husband's surname. The husband testified that the child is his child for all practical purposes and that she has called him "daddy" her entire life. It is undisputed, however, that the husband and the wife had made it known to others that the husband is not the child's biological father because, they said, they did not want people to think that the husband had had sex with R.H. The husband also testified that he had informed the child that he is not her biological father. The wife testified that ...


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