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In re Turner

October 08, 2002

IN RE THE MATTER OF: KEELIA P. TURNER, RESPONDENT,
RAMSEY COUNTY, RESPONDENT,
v.
LIONEL RACQUINT SUGGS, APPELLANT.



Ramsey County District Court File No. F80050693

Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Parker, Judge*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. A motion under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 to vacate a paternity adjudication is not identical to an action under Minn. Stat. §á257.57, subd. 2 (2000), to declare the nonexistence of the father-child relationship presumed under Minn. Stat. §á257.55, subd. 1 (2000), or to a proceeding to declare the nonexistence of the father-child relationship under Minn. Stat. § 257.60(2) (2000).

2. A man adjudicated the father of a child in a paternity proceeding may bring a motion under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 to vacate the paternity adjudication.

3. Where a man stipulates to paternity of a child based on the representations and sworn statements of the child's mother, and where subsequent genetic tests indicate that those representations and sworn statements were false, the genetic tests may be used to seek relief from the paternity adjudication on the basis of newly discovered evidence and fraud under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(b), (c).

4. When considering whether to vacate a paternity adjudication on the basis of newly discovered evidence and fraud under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(b), (c), and where the party seeking relief admits that he may still be adjudicated the child's father in a subsequent paternity proceeding, a district court shall not consider the child's best interests in determining whether to vacate the paternity adjudication.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. Barry Anderson, Judge

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

OPINION

Based on the admission of appellant Lionel Suggs, the district court adjudicated him the father of respondent Keelia Turner's child. Genetic testing later excluded appellant as the child's biological father and appellant moved to vacate the paternity adjudication alleging, among other things, fraud and newly discovered evidence. Without holding an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied appellant's motion, finding that there was no credible evidence that Turner committed fraud on the court or on appellant. On appeal, appellant contends that the genetic tests conclusively show that Turner committed fraud when, in her sworn written and oral statements, she represented that appellant was the father of the child and the only possible father of the child. By notice of review, respondent Ramsey County argues the district court erred by failing to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child and by failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing to address the validity of the genetic tests and the child's best interests. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

FACTS

Between August 1994 and May 2000, appellant and Turner, while unmarried, engaged in a sexual relationship. Turner gave birth on August 18, 1995, and informed appellant that he was the child's father. Relying on Turner's unequivocal representations, appellant accepted responsibility for the child, treated the child as his son, and helped care for the child. In May 1997, Turner signed a paternity affidavit stating that there were no other possible fathers of the child. The parties' relationship deteriorated, and, in fall 2000, Ramsey County sought to adjudicate appellant the father of the child and to address custody, support, and visitation issues.

At the hearing, Turner told the court that appellant was the father of the child. Appellant, again relying on Turner's consistent and unequivocal representations regarding the child's paternity, admitted that he was the father and waived his rights to genetic tests and to representation by counsel. The district court found that there were no other presumed fathers of the child and adjudicated appellant the father, ordered him to pay child support and other expenses, and awarded him joint legal custody as well as reasonable visitation.

Subsequent genetic tests of appellant and the child, arranged by appellant, excluded him as the child's biological father. When appellant informed the district court of the test results, the district court suspended appellant's child support obligation. Appellant refused to repeat the tests and moved, in the paternity proceeding, to vacate the paternity adjudication under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 and Minn. Stat. §§á548.14, 518.145 (2000). The county opposed appellant's motion, arguing that appellant had failed to provide adequate reasons to vacate the paternity adjudication. The county also argued that if appellant's motion was not denied, a guardian ad litem should be appointed for the child and that an evidentiary hearing was required to address the validity of the genetic tests and whether it would be in the child's best interests to vacate the paternity adjudication. Without holding an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied appellant's motion. It concluded that there was no credible evidence that Turner had committed fraud on the court or on appellant. The court noted that Turner has always maintained and continues to maintain that appellant is the only possible father of the child. This appeal followed.

ISSUES

I. Did the district court err by not appointing a guardian ad litem for the child?

II. May a man adjudicated the father of a child in a paternity proceeding seek to vacate a paternity adjudication ...


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