State ex rel. Department of Health and Human Resources v. Michael George K
In State ex rel. Department of Health and Human Resources v. Michael George K., 207 W.Va. 290, 531 S.E.2d 669 (2000), the document which originally contained a finding of paternity was a paternity acknowledgment, rather than a divorce answer and decree as in the present case.
The mother in Michael George was married to Mr. K. at the time of the child's birth, but she refused to list a father on the birth certificate, and Mr. K. filed for divorce prior to the child's birth.
The mother and Mr. K. agreed to a divorce order stating that no children had been born of the marriage. Two weeks after the child's birth, the mother and Mr. C. signed a notarized paternity acknowledgment stating that Mr. C. was the biological father. The Child Support Enforcement Division thereafter instituted a legal proceeding on behalf of the child against Mr. C.
However, subsequent blood testing revealed that Mr. C. was not the biological father of the child. Consequently, the Division instituted an action on behalf of the child against Mr. K., and blood testing indicated that Mr. K. was the child's biological father. 207 W.Va. at 293, 531 S.E.2d at 672.
Subsequent to a lower court child support order against Mr. K., Mr. K appealed to this Court seeking to avail himself of the preclusive res judicata effects of the paternity acknowledgment signed by Mr. C. and the divorce decree stating that no children had been born of the marriage between the mother and Mr. K.
The Court examined Mr. K.'s contentions and concluded that the Mr. C.'s paternity acknowledgment did not preclude the biological father's obligation to pay child support.
The Court also found that Mr. K could not rely upon the "implicit decree of non-paternity" issued in connection with Mr. K's divorce from the mother stating that no children had been born of the marriage. 207 W.Va. at 299, 531 S.E.2d at 678.
The Court observed that "our cases have consistently held that such decrees or determinations are not res judicata and do not inure to the benefit of a putative parent in an action brought on behalf of the child to obtain support." 207 W.Va. at 299, 531 S.E.2d at 678.