Is Genetic Testing In The Child’s Best Interest?

Maryland Child Custody and Divorce Lawyers know that the duty to pay child support is a bedrock principle of Family Law. In a previous posting, I have discussed efforts that were underway in the 2010 legislative session to update the current statute.

The goal has been to make the calculation of child support as automatic as possible by establishing guidelines that are simple and accessible. Attempts to avoid paying child support are highly disfavored by the courts. On appeal in Duckworth vs. Kamp, Mr. Duckworth discovered how strong that policy is.

The appellate court held that the Circuit Court had erred in its decision, because it failed to consider the best interest of the child.

Mr. Duckworth played a trump card to defend against a claim for arrearages brought by his former wife. He asserted a claim that had long been a matter of suspicion. He wasn’t the biological father of his 14 year old daughter! He actually convinced the trial court to order a paternity test. When the test supported his defense, the court dismissed the claim for unpaid child support and granted his motion to terminate child support.

On appeal by mother, the Maryland Court of Appeals refused to accept Mr. Duckworth’s belated efforts to shuck off fatherhood because of financial convenience. The court held that the Circuit Court had erred because it failed to consider the best interest of the child. It went further in enumerating a host of legal principle that precluded his long delayed renunciation of fatherhood.

However, setting aside issues that may be unique to Mr. Duckworth, this opinion confirms the principle that before entering any order for paternity testing of a child born during a marriage, the court must first determine that testing is in the best interest of the child.