Despite DNA Proof, Kentucky Strikes Down Paternity Claim

On April 24th, the Supreme Court of Kentucky decided in favor of a couple who had appealed a family court’s decision to consider the petition for paternity of a third party who claimed to be the biological father of their child (“J.A.R.”). The child’s mother, referred to as J.N.R. in the case, conceived him out of wedlock with James Rhoades (who has DNA testing to prove it), while her husband was in the military.

Kentucky law, however, states that a child can only be considered out of wedlock if it can be proven that the “marital relationship between the husband and wife ceased ten (10) months prior to the birth of the child” (KRS 406.011). The justices were bitterly fragmented over the meaning of this statute, writing 5 separate opinions both concurring with and dissenting from the majority opinion. Justice Cunningham, of the majority, dedicated much of his opinion to the necessity of protecting the inviolability of marriage from third parties, and of protecting children from the knowledge of their parentage:

“We are in need of a bold declaration that the marriage circle, even one with an errant partner, will be invaded at one’s own legal risk”

Justice Abramson, in a fiery dissent, took issue with the majority’s desire to shield families from the realities of paternity, appealing to common sense and the notion of living with “inconvenient truths.” She also disagreed with the majority’s interpretation of KRS 406.011, arguing that the marital relationship between the appellees had clearly dissolved 10 months prior to J.A.R.’s birth, regardless of their legal marital status:

“A marital relationship has emotional, physical, social and, yes, moral dimensions and is characterized by a monogamous bond between the two parties to the relationship.”

The Supreme Court of Kentucky’s decision

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