December 2020 | No. M2019-01499-COA-R3-JV (Tenn. App. 2020)

State of Tennessee ex rel. Kimberly C. v. Gordon S. (Tennessee 2020)

A voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (VAP) is a legal finding of paternity but can be set aside for material mistake of fact. The burden of proof is on the parent challenging the VAP. The father signed a VAP knowing that he was not the child’s biological parent. The parents broke up, and the State filed to establish support. The father filed to dismiss the petition, arguing that there was a material mistake of fact and he requested genetic testing. The juvenile court denied the request for genetic testing, declined to set aside the VAP, and ordered support. The father appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the order. The VAP wasn’t rescinded in the statutory timeframe. The father argued his material mistake of fact was that he didn’t understand the consequences of signing a VAP. The appellate court found the VAP form clearly outlined the responsibilities of a legal father, including the obligation to financially support the child. The father also argued that making a non-biological parent pay support is against public policy. The court found no merit in this argument. Holding a legal father, who voluntarily signed a VAP knowing he wasn’t the child’s biological father, to his obligation to support a child doesn’t violate public policy.

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