Brief Fact Summary. Carole had an adulterous affair with Michael while married to Gerald. A child was born while Carole and Gerald were together, but was likely Michael’s child. Michael and the child by guardian ad litem brought suit to establish paternity and a right to visitation.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. An adulterous, natural father does not have a constitutional right to paternity over the marital father.
Issue. Does the presumption established by the law infringe upon the due process rights of a man who wishes to establish his paternity of a child born to the wife of another man or infringe upon the constitutional right of the child to maintain a relationship with her natural father?
Held. [ Please provide a description of the decision(s) of this case ]
Michael contends as a matter of substantive due process that because he has established a parental relationship with Victoria, protection of Gerald and Carole’s marital union is an insufficient state interest to support termination of the relationship. However, Michael’s interest must be a fundamental liberty to be constitutionally protected.
Historically, the marital family has been protected rather than the potential father outside of the marriage. The presumption of legitimacy was fundamental at common law, and could be rebutted only by a husband who was incapable of procreation or had no access to his wife during the relative period. The policy rationales were the aversion to declaring children illegitimate and the peace and tranquility of the States and families. No modern or historical precedent similarly recognizes the power of the natural father to assert parental rights.
Michael must establish not that society has traditionally allowed a natural father in his circumstances to establish paternity, but that it has traditionally accorded such a father parental rights. To provide protection to an adulterous natural father is to deny protection to a marital father.
Victoria’s due process challenge is weaker than Michael’s. Her claim that a State must recognize multiple fatherhood has no support in history or tradition. The Court declines to accept Victoria’s argument that she had no opportunity to rebut the presumption of her legitimacy, because Victoria is not illegitimate.
Dissent. If we had looked to tradition with such specificity in past cases, many decisions would have had a different result. The plurality ignores the developing society in which we live. Liberty must include the freedom not to conform. This is not a new interest, in that of a parent and a child in their relationship with one another. The plurality’s decision is striking considering the precedent preventing States from denying important interests to those in situations that do not fit the government’s narrow view of the family.
Discussion. The dissent accuses the plurality of being too specific in its search of history to support the right claimed by appellant. An omitted concurring opinion agreed in the sense that it objected that the plurality’s historical analysis might foreclose the identification of future liberty interests.