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Dorman v. Steffen

July 29, 2003

JEAN ANN DORMAN, N/K/A JEAN ANN HAMMES, RESPONDENT, DOUGLAS COUNTY, RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES CLIFFORD STEFFEN, APPELLANT, DAVID LAVERN DORMAN, RESPONDENT.



Douglas County District Court File No. F30250161

Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. A public authority chargeable by law with the support of the child may commence a parentage action against an alleged father prior to obtaining blood test results confirming his presumed paternity.

2. The existence of a presumed father by marriage does not preclude the public authority chargeable by law with the support of the child from commencing an action to establish paternity of someone other than the presumed father.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hudson, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

The district court denied appellant's motion to dismiss the county's paternity action against him for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Appellant argues that the district court erred because (a) respondent-husband is the presumed father of the child; (b) Witso v. Overby, 627 N.W.2d 63 (Minn. 2001), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1130, 122 S.áCt. 1069 (2002), should not be extended to require him to submit to a blood test; and (c) the disruption to the family unit is against public policy. We affirm.

FACTS

Just before respondent B.D.'s third birthday, his parentage became the subject of litigation. He was born to respondent Jean Hammes during her marriage to respondent David Dorman. After Hammes filed for dissolution of their marriage but before it was finalized, Dorman filed an affidavit questioning paternity due to B.D.'s physical characteristics. Dorman then obtained a blood test showing that he was not B.D.'s father. Despite motions and stipulations of the parties, the final dissolution decree did not declare the nonexistence of Dorman's parent-child relationship with B.D.; however, it did contain findings that Dorman was not B.D.'s biological father and not responsible for B.D.'s support. Dorman's separate action to establish non-paternity, similarly, failed to result in an adjudication of non-paternity.

Almost two years later, respondents Hammes and Douglas County, as the public authority chargeable by law with B.D.'s support, brought this action to establish paternity. B.D., through his guardian ad litem, was later joined as a plaintiff under Minn. Stat. §á257.60 (3) (2002). As a result of his earlier marriage to Hammes, Dorman was named as a defendant based on his status as presumed father under Minn. Stat. §á257.55, subd.á1(a) (2002). Appellant James Steffen was also named as a defendant based on Hammes' affidavit alleging that he was B.D.'s biological father. Steffen denied that he was the father of B.D.

Commencement of the county's action was the impetus for Dorman and Hammes to move for an amendment to their dissolution order to include a declaration of the nonexistence of Dorman's parent-child relationship. Steffen moved to intervene in the dissolution action to prevent the amendment. Dorman also attempted to consolidate his non-paternity action with the county's action to establish paternity. The dissolution court denied Steffen's motion to intervene and amended the decree to declare the nonexistence of Dorman's parent-child relationship with B.D.

Steffen then moved for dismissal of the present action by the county to establish paternity. The district court: (1)ádenied Steffen's motion to dismiss; (2)ádismissed Dorman's non-paternity action; (3)ádeclared the amended dissolution decree void; and (4)áordered Steffen to submit to a blood test. Steffen appeals, arguing that the district court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the county's action. His efforts to stay the ...


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