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Law School Case Brief

L. Pamela P. v. Frank. S. - 59 N.Y.2d 1, 462 N.Y.S.2d 819, 449 N.E.2d 713 (1983)


Once paternity is established, N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act § 545 requires the court to direct the parent or parents to pay a fair and reasonable sum as the court may determine for such child's support and education, until the child is twenty-one. The statute mandates consideration of two factors -- the needs of the child for support and education and the financial ability of the parents to contribute to that support. The statute does not  permit consideration of the "fault" or wrongful conduct of one of the parents in causing the child's conception. The family court, as a court of limited jurisdiction, is simply not the proper forum for adjudicating disputes existing solely between the parents. 


Following a hearing on the mother's paternity petition, the family court made an order of filiation, after which the father endeavored to establish that the mother, intending to have the father's child regardless of his wishes, misrepresented to him that she was using contraception. The mother denied having any such conversation. The family court found that the mother had purposely deceived the father, and that this wrongful conduct would weigh in the father's favor in determining support obligations, so that the father would be liable only in the amount by which the mother's means were insufficient to meet the child's needs. The appellate court modified the order, striking the fraud defense and raising the support amount. 


Can the father use contraception misrepresentation as a defense in determining support obligations?




The Court affirmed the decision of the appellate court holding that the father, whose paternity was established, could not use contraception misrepresentation as a defense. N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act § 545 did not permit consideration of the "fault" of one of the parents in causing the child's conception. The father's constitutional entitlement to avoid procreation did not encompass a right to avoid a child support obligation simply because another private person did not fully respect his wishes.

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