Tag Archives: paternity

Supreme Court Rules Misleading Mom Must Pay Duped Dad

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld a trial court’s damage award against a mother who misled her boyfriend by telling him he was the child’s father when he was not. In its ruling, the Court stated that an intentional misrepresentation claim, which is already recognized in Tennessee’s courts, is broad enough to apply to circumstances where a mother intentionally misrepresents the parentage of her child.
In November 1991, Tina Hodge told Chadwick Craig that she was pregnant and that he was the child’s father. When Mr. Craig asked Ms. Hodge if she was sure he was the father, Ms. Hodge answered that she was, even though she had been having sexual relations with another man at the time. The couple married in December 1991, and Ms. Hodge’s child was born in June 1992. Mr. Craig raised the child, believing that he was the child’s biological father.
After the couple divorced in 2001, Mr. Craig began to suspect that the child was not his. Genetic tests eventually confirmed that Mr. Craig was not the child’s father. This news strained the relationship between Mr. Craig and the child. When Ms. Hodge and Mr. Craig returned to court to address custody and child support issues, Mr. Craig claimed that he was entitled to monetary damages based on Ms. Hodge’ s intentional misrepresentation that he was the child’s biological father. Following a trial in the Circuit Court for Maury County, the trial court found that Ms. Hodge had intentionally misrepresented to Mr. Craig that he was the child’s biological father and ordered Ms. Hodge to pay damages to Mr. Craig.
The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that Ms. Hodge had intentionally misrepresented the parentage of the child to Mr. Craig. But the appellate court vacated the damage award because it was a retroactive modification of child support which is prohibited by statute. Mr. Craig appealed to the Supreme Court
In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that existing Tennessee law allowed Mr. Craig to file an intentional misrepresentation claim against Ms. Hodge. The Court also agreed with the Court of Appeals that the evidence supported the trial court’s finding that Ms. Hodge had intentionally misrepresented to Mr. Craig that he was her child’s father. In addition, the Court held that Mr. Craig was entitled to recover damages from Ms. Hodge and that a damage award based on the amount of child support expenses Mr. Craig had paid following the divorce was not a prohibited retroactive modification of child support.
To read the Tina Marie Hodge v. Chadwick Craig opinion, authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/hodgetmopn.pdf
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Supremes to Hear Paternity Fraud Case (and a memory note)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Supreme court has agreed to hear a case that could decide whether a man has legal grounds to sue for being duped into supporting a child that turns out to be fathered by someone else.
Legal experts believe it may be the first time for the state’s highest court to decide whether paternity fraud is grounds to sue.
The court could give a man the right to recover some of the expense of caring for the child and win damages for emotional suffering for the paternity fraud. Lawyers say it’s unlikely the man would be able to recover past child-support payments.
The case involves a divorced Maury County couple where the ex-husband was awarded $26,000 for child support and medical expenses he paid and $100,000 for emotional distress because of the fraud. The Tennessee Court of Appeals struck down the award.
David Scott, a Murfreesboro attorney who practices family law, said the Supreme Court probably took the case because more men are finding out they are not the biological fathers of children they’ve been supporting because of easy DNA testing.
“I think attorneys are going to be paying attention to this case because it’s an issue that comes up in family law quite often,” Scott said.
(Note: The Legislature once moved to deal with paternity fraud, stirring some interesting debate — as in a 2009 post still available HERE. ) The bill ultimately failed in a Senate committee after passing the House.)

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