On May 1967, Carole D. , an international model and Gerald D. , a top executive in a French Oil company got married. They established a home where they lived as husband and wife. Two years later, Carole got involved in an adulterous affair with her neighbor Michael H. Subsequently, Carole gave birth to Victoria D. and in the birth certificate Gerald was named the father of the child. Immediately after the delivery of the child, Carole D.
confided to Michael H. that she had strong reasons to believe that he was the real father. A group blood test was taken which only confirmed their suspicions that indeed Michael was the real father. In light of this discovery, Carole paid Michael a brief visit at his place, during which time, Michael held out the daughter as his very own. Not long after, Carole left Michael to live with another man and later returned to Gerald.
After a series of failed attempts to see his daughter and having been rebuffed by Carol a few times, Michael filed a filiation action in California Superior Court to establish his paternity and right to visitation. The child Victoria, in a cross-complaint filed through an appointed attorney and guardian ad litem, asseverates that if she had more than one psychological or de facto father, she was entitled to maintain her filial relationship, with all of the attendant rights, duties, and obligations, with both. Issues of Law:
The law at issue in the case at bar is the California statute holding that “a wife cohabiting with her husband, who is not impotent or sterile, is conclusively presumed to be parents of a child of the marriage”, unless such presumption is rebutted by competent blood-group test results declaring otherwise. Likewise, a motion for which must be filed in court not later than two years from the date of the child’s birth by the husband, or by the natural father after an affidavit recognizing paternity has been filed in the appropriate period allotted by law, [Cal. Evid. Code Ann. 621(a), (c), (d) (West Supp.
1989)]. Legal questions: Petitioner avers an abridgment of his rights to procedural and substantive due process of law insofar as he was barred from demonstrating his paternity through blood tests, and that the overriding social policy of protecting the integrity of the family unit, stemming from the husband and wife relationship, prevented him from exerting his natural rights as a father over his natural daughter. He argues that the protection of Gerald’s and Carol’s marital union is an insufficient state interest to deny him the right to continue filial relationships with Victoria.
Tradition espoused in marital union must give way to his inalienable natural right as a father. The main issue is whether or not the relationship between Michael and Carol, as a family unit, has been recognized as valid in society, or that history has in any way accorded special protection to their extra-marital union. Cross-complainant, on the other hand, invokes the equal-protection clause in addition to her right to due process. She argues that by denying her full enjoyment of being with her natural father, the State does, in turn, discriminate against her status as an illegitimate child.
Court Opinion and Holding: The decision of the California Superior court appealed from is affirmed. The State, its laws and the society in which they are ensconced largely favor the strength and solidarity of marital unions. Absent a clear showing that neither the husband nor the wife are incapable of conceiving and bearing a child, or that the husband had no access to his wife when the child was conceived, the presumption that the child born out of their marriage is theirs can not be refuted.
Presumption of legitimacy in a valid marital union is a fundamental principle of common law. The rationale for applying the presumption lies at the fact that the heirs must be protected against allegations of illegitimacy when the rights of succession and inheritance are in question. It is also a means to prevent indiscriminate and spurious claims to the illegitimacy of the children of the family in order that the stability of state and family is preserved.
Michael’s claims find no meaning in the extant pages of jurisprudence and history where a man was ever successful in asserting his paternity of a child with a woman as the wife of another man in the subsistence of a valid marriage. Thus, Michael’s contention is devoid of social merit and legal cognizance. Cross-complainant’s concern that she is discriminated against as an illegitimate child is likewise unmeritorious. For one, she is considered legitimate in the eyes of law and second, she possesses all the rights and obligations of a legitimate child. No discrimination whatsoever arises.
Student Opinion: Dura lex sed lex. The law is harsh but is the law. In this case, the court understandably had to uphold social traditions and legal construct against the claims of natural rights of Michael simply because the technological means of proving paternal filiations are not that abjectly convincing. The court’s adamant refusal to at least grant Michael the right of a natural father, much less give him visitation rights bespeaks of its desire to maintain social order no matter the psychological and social ramifications it may bear on both Michael and Victoria.
Yet science has progressed at such a gallop that was then science fiction is now science fact. DNA typing and other competent methods of accurately confirming a person’s legitimacy, may completely trump legal rhetoric argued in this case. Perhaps, in future test cases, in light of DNA technology, the court would be more willing to deviate from the norm in favor of fathers of children outside of a legally subsisting marriage. Hopefully, the presumption espoused in this case will no longer find application before concrete and hard scientific facts and the court would be more lenient to the Michael’s and Victoria’s of society.