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When is a Third Party Denied from Challenging Paternity?


When a family member has died without a will, it can be stressful to decide how that person’s property should be divided.  Mix in the fact that the person was killed by another family member, accusations of infidelity, and a life insurance policy, and you have the recipe for a very interesting court case.  This issue is exactly what the Alabama Supreme Court had to decide in a court case out of Mobile County. 

In Campbell v. J.R.C., the husband, Romano, died without a will when he was murdered by his wife.  At the time he was killed, he had a $200,000 life insurance policy, and the wife was the beneficiary.  The wife filed a claim for the proceeds of the policy.  However, because she plead guilty in connection with her husband’s murder, the proceeds of the insurance policy were to be distributed as though she died before her husband.  This is what caused the drama in this case. 

Romano and his wife had three children during their marriage, and the wife had another child who was born a year and a half before their marriage.  Romano’s mother claimed that she should inherit the insurance money.  She also claimed that Romano’s children were not actually heirs, and thus should not inherit any of the money, because they were not biologically his children.

To determine how the insurance proceeds should be distributed, the Supreme Court looked at when the children were born.  Because the children were born during Romano’s and the wife’s legal marriage, the children were entitled to the presumption that Romano was their father.  The statute that governs this issue also states that if the father persists in his presumption of paternity, nobody else can challenge the issue. 

The facts in this case showed that Romano was insistent that he was the father.  On all of the children’s birth certificates, he was listed as the father.  He provided for all of the children.  Furthermore, a rider on his life insurance policy insured each child for $10,000 and listed each of them as either his “son” or “daughter.”  Because all the facts presented showed that Romano claimed all of the children as his own, Romano’s mother could not challenge his paternity.

Perhaps the biggest take away here is to not put off preparing your will.  You never know how much longer you have left to live.  However, the main point is that in most cases, a third party cannot contest your paternity.  As long as you are married at the time of the child’s birth, claim them, and support them, someone else cannot later argue that you are not actually the father of the child.  However, if you were not married at the time the child was born, there is not a presumption that you are the father. 

If you or someone you know is challenging paternity, or is having their paternity challenged, you need an experienced family lawyer on your side.  Joseph Ingram of INGRAM LAW LLC is very knowledgeable on family law issues and can help you with your case.  Contact him today at (205) 335-2640 to schedule a free consultation.

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