When the requisite two witnesses and a notary public are present and there is no other evidence offered to rebut the presumption that the signatures are valid, the burden is not met to rebut the presumption.
Chris was 18 when he signed the Acnowledgement of Paternity and Terri Ann Eymard was 16 years old. Chris had a seventh grade education, worked in the bayou working in the fishing industry, and was in a catastrophic automobile accident four months after the minor child Kelsey’s birth, leaving him in a coma that he never came out of., Terri brought suit against Mary Jane Terrebonne, Chris’s mother (defendant and curatrix of his estate), alleging that Chris had signed a formal acknowledgment of paternity of Kelsey on November 21, 1978. Plaintiff further alleged that Chris had signed an "Agreement to Pay Support" at the same time. She prayed for judgment declaring Chris to be the father of the minor child. Plaintiff later amended her petition to ask only for child support, medical payments, and reasonable visitation rights. Defendant answered and said Chris’s signatures were either forgeries or obtained through duress, and although the Acknowledgement of Paternity was in authentic form, it was not executed in strict compliance with the requirements of the civil code and was invalid. The trial court held for the plaintiff.
Is a mere allegation of forgery or duress sufficient to set aside a notarized document that was also witnessed by the required two witnesses at signing?
The Court agreed with the trial court that defendant did not carry her burden of proving that the Chris’s signature was a forgery or obtained through duress, and insufficient evidence was adduced to attack the authentic act. The notary public and a friend of Chris’s who was a witness on the document were called and said that Chris signed the papers. The acknowledgement of an illegitimate child is an authentic act if it is made before two witnesses and a notary public. There was not enough proof introduced to rebut the presumption that the instrument is valid. The only thing noted was that Chris was afraid he might be sent to prison because Terri was underage, but the threat of doing a lawful act or a threat of exercising a right does not constitute duress. The judgement of the trial court granting child support of $200 a month is not clearly wrong and is affirmed.