Brief Fact Summary.
Gerald was married to Carole, who had a daughter. However, Carole had an affair with Michael, who took a test to determine he was the biological father. Michael obtained visitation rights and Gerald brought suit challenging those rights under Cal. Evid. Code 621.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A biological father does not have a fundamental right to obtain parental rights after the presumptive father has exercised significant responsibility over the child.
We limit our pronouncement to the relevant facts of this case because it is at least possible that our traditions lead to a different conclusion with regard to adulterous fathering of a child whom the marital parents do not wish to raise as their own.View Full Point of Law
Gerald D. was the presumptive father of a girl, born to his wife Carole. However, Carole had an adulterous partner, Michael H., who obtained blood tests indicating that he was the biological father. When Michael obtained visitation rights in a California state court, Gerald argued that Michael had no ground under California law to challenge Gerald’s paternity since more than two years had passed since the girl’s birth. According to Cal. Evid. Code 621, the child is “presumed to be a child of the marriage” and another man can only challenge this presumption within two years of birth.
Does Cal. Evid. Code 621 violate the Due Process Clause by denying a possible biological father the chance to establish his paternity of a child after 2 years have passed since the child’s birth?
No, Cal. Evid. Code 621 does not violate the Due Process Clause.
The plurality ignores the developing society in which we live. The historical reasons for the conclusive presumption of paternity are out of place in a world in which blood tests can prove who fathers a particular child and illegitimacy is no longer stigmatized.
Based on its analysis of common law tradition, the Court found that a possible biological father does not have a fundamental right to obtain parental rights after the presumptive father has exercised significant responsibility over the child. Therefore due process protection does not apply. Cal. Evid. Code 621 was based on common law precedent which showed “an aversion to declaring children illegitimate” and supported “the interest in promoting the ‘peace and tranquility of States and families.’” Restricting Michael’s parental rights achieved this by granting Gerald the sole responsibility to play the role of the girl’s father.