Culhane v. Michels – Case Brief Summary (South Dakota)

In Culhane v. Michels, 2000 SD 101, 615 N.W.2d 580 (S.D. 2000), the parties agreed to end their marriage when their two children were four and six years of age, respectively.

The parties entered into a property settlement and child custody agreement that was later adopted by the circuit court.

Eleven years later, the former wife, Culhane, sued the former husband, Michels to recover delinquent child support.

Michels moved for paternity testing to determine whether he was the biological father of the younger daughter.

The trial court denied his request, and the Supreme Court of South Dakota affirmed. It reasoned, 615 N.W. 2d at 589:

"Belated efforts to declare a child illegitimate, for whatever reasons, should seldom prevail. Michels has failed to show sufficient cause for paternity testing at this late juncture. The welfare of the child must be considered over the father's long delayed challenge to the child's parentage. Michels has treated both children as his own since birth. He claims that his request is not made to recover past child support, but merely to find out if he is the father and whether Culhane perpetrated fraud upon him. These are not compelling enough reasons to disrupt the life of a child born during their marriage."

In Culhane v. Michels, the marriage of Margaret Culhane and Stephen Michels allegedly produced two daughters.

When the children were six and four, the parties agreed to end their marriage and entered into a property settlement and child custody agreement that was later adopted by the circuit court.

Eleven years later, Culhane sued Michels to recover delinquent child support. Michels moved for paternity testing to determine whether he was the biological father of the younger daughter.

The circuit court denied his request, and the Supreme Court of South Dakota affirmed. It reasoned, id. at 589:

"Belated efforts to declare a child illegitimate, for whatever reasons, should seldom prevail. Michels has failed to show sufficient cause for paternity testing at this late juncture. The welfare of the child must be considered over the father's long delayed challenge to the child's parentage. Michels has treated both children as his own since birth. He claims that his request is not made to recover past child support, but merely to find out if he is the father and whether Culhane perpetrated fraud upon him. These are not compelling enough reasons to disrupt the life of a child born during their marriage."