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In re D.M.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 8, 2014

IN RE THE PATERNITY OF D.M.:
v.
C.M., Appellee-Petitioner J.W., Appellant-Respondent,

Page 203

APPEAL FROM THE CLARK CIRCUIT COURT. The Honorable Jerome F. Jacobi, Judge, The Honorable William A. Dawkins, Magistrate. Cause No. 10C02-1301-JP-23.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: KAREN YVONNA RENFRO, New Albany, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General of Indiana; KRISTIN GARN, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ROBB, Judge. BARNES, J., and BROWN, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 204

ROBB, Judge.

Case Summary and Issue

The State of Indiana filed a Verified Petition for the Establishment of Paternity alleging J.W. was the father of C.M.'s stillborn child. J.W. filed a motion to dismiss alleging the State's petition failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Following a hearing, the trial court denied J.W.'s motion and ordered the parties to submit to genetic testing. J.W. appeals the trial court's order, raising the following issue for our review: whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to dismiss and ordering him to undergo genetic testing to establish paternity of a stillborn child when there were no custody or support issues to be determined. Concluding the State had no authority to bring this action and the trial court erred in allowing it to proceed, we reverse.

Facts and Procedural History

On July 25, 2012, C.M., a minor, gave birth at home to a stillborn child, D.M. C.M. was unaware prior to this date that she was pregnant. C.M. alleged J.W., also a minor, was D.M.'s father. J.W. denies this allegation.

C.M. and her mother asked the Clark County Prosecutor's Office for assistance in establishing paternity. C.M. " assigned her support rights to the State of Indiana pursuant to an Assignment for Persons Not Receiving Public Assistance and Title IV-D of the Social Security Act." Appellant's Appendix at 4. The State then filed a Verified Petition for the Establishment of Paternity as next friend of D.M. and assignee of C.M.'s support rights naming J.W. as the alleged father. J.W. filed a motion to dismiss, contending that because of the circumstances of D.M.'s birth, there were no prenatal, birth, or postnatal expenses to be reimbursed, nor was C.M. receiving services or assistance from the State which could be reimbursed. Therefore, J.W. alleged there was no cause of action for paternity by the State.

The trial court held a joint hearing on the petition to establish paternity and the motion to dismiss. In support of the petition to establish paternity, C.M. testified that she was unaware she was pregnant until she gave birth, that D.M. was stillborn, and that J.W. was the only person with whom she had sexual relations. C.M.'s mother testified that they wanted paternity established " [f]irst of all, for closure [and] for the respect of my, our family, as well as theirs, to know the truth of what happened." Transcript at 7-8. C.M.'s mother also testified that there had been no costs due to the pregnancy. She did note they are now paying for C.M.'s blood pressure medication, but she offered no evidence aside from her testimony that the blood pressure condition was a result of or related to the pregnancy. She also noted they had paid the costs of cremating D.M. The State acknowledged at the outset of the hearing that no money is owed to the State, but later stated that it may seek reimbursement of Medicaid costs in the future.[1] The parties then offered argument on J.W.'s motion to dismiss. After

Page 205

taking the matter under advisement, the trial court issued the ...


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