Family Law Keyed to Weisberg

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Topic /161
L. Pamela P. v. Frank S

Citation. L. Pamela P. v. Frank. S., 59 N.Y.2d 1, 449 N.E.2d 713, 462 N.Y.S.2d 819, 1983 N.Y. LEXIS 3020 (N.Y. May 3, 1983)

Brief Fact Summary. Respondent claimed fraud and deceit as a defense to child support obligations after petitioner misled him with regard to her use of contraception.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The New York statute not permitting consideration of fraud and deceit when determining child support does not violate respondent’s constitutional right to privacy.

Facts. The family court found that petitioner had purposefully deceived respondent with regard to her use of contraception. Based on this, the court held inapplicable the general rule that the apportionment of child support obligations is based on the parents’ means. Instead it held that the support order entered against the father would be the amount by which the mother’s means were insufficient to meet the child’s. The Appellate Division noted that the only things to be considered are the needs of the child and the means of the parents. Therefore, it found the defense of fraud and deceit irrelevant and increased the support accordingly.

Issue. May a father assert the deliberate misrepresentation of the mother concerning her use of contraception as a defense to his support obligation after his paternity has been established?

Held. The statute does not permit such a defense. The imposition of support does not violate Respondent’s constitutional right to privacy.
The primary purpose of establishing paternity is to ensure adequate provision for the child based on the means of the parents. The support statute does permit consideration of fault or wrongful conduct on the part of one of the parents in causing conception.

Respondent argues that petitioner’s act deprived him of his constitutional right to decide whether to father a child and the imposition of support constitutes state involvement. Even assuming sufficient state action is present, respondent’s contentions fall short of stating a recognized aspect of the constitutional right of privacy. Previous comparable case law involved restrictions on contraceptive devices, and did not regulate the conduct of private actors between themselves. Respondent is not limited in his right to use contraception, and his right to avoid procreation does not encompass a right to avoid support because another private individual did not respect his desires in this regard.

Discussion. The Court did not rule on the sufficiency of the state action claimed, but rather found that the privacy interest the respondent claimed was not protected by the Constitution.