Family Law (Estoppel, paternity): HINSHAW V. HINSHAW (COA 9/1/2006)

HINSHAW V. HINSHAW
FAMILY LAW:  Custody, non-biological parent, and equitable estoppel
2005-CA-000834
PUBLISHED – AFFIRMING (HENRY)
DATE RENDERED: 9/1/2006

Affirmed Jefferson Family Court’s (FC’s) (Whittinghill) use of equitable estoppel to stop mother from denying her husband’s custody claims based on DNA test.  Mom concealed the fact that Husband was not the dad during the marriage Custodial evaluation said that Husband and son were strongly bonded.  Mom argued that Husband would have continued to both support and spend time with the child even if he knew the child was not his and, therefore  no detrimental reliance.  COA disagreed, stating: "By withholding the true state of [Husband’s] relationship to the child, [Mom] precluded [Husband] from seeking legal advice as to the extent of his relationship with [Child]…. had [Husband] known the truth, he might have sought to….terminate the biological father’s parental rights so that he could adopt the child."  COA says that he would have then been on equal footing with Mom in any custody dispute.  "We conclude it was not error for the court to conclude that [Husband] relied on [Mother’s] representations to his detriment.

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