Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Paternity

In a case published just yesterday, the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida reversed a trial court order which mandated a paternity test as part of a stalking case. The case was presented to the appellate court as a writ for certiorari which can be sought when a party shows (1) a departure from the essential requirements of the law, (2) resulting in material injury for the remainder of the case, (3) that cannot be corrected on post-judgment appeal. See Llanos v. Huerta, 3D18-1902 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018).

In this case, a married couple at some point separated and during the period of separation, the wife maintained a relationship with a third party. The married couple subsequently reconciled and the wife ended her relationship with the third party. The wife became pregnant, and the third party filed a paternity action which was dismissed with prejudice.

The wife filed a petition for protection against stalking against the third party. The same was granted, and the husband then also filed the same petition, alleging the third party was threatening his family and threatening to send photos of the wife to neighbors and the husband’s employer. The trial court judge commented during a hearing that it seemed the third party might be pursuing such conduct because he believed he could be the biological father of the child to whom the wife gave birth after reconciling with her husband. It appeared the trial court saw this as providing a legitimate reason why the third party continued to contact the husband and wife.

The third party filed a motion for paternity testing and the same was granted by the trial court. On appeal, the court reversed this ruling, holding, “Florida law has a strong public policy against genetic testing to establish biological paternity where such testing could overcome the presumption of legal paternity and legitimacy; therefore, prior to ordering paternity testing, the trial court must also determine that the testing would be in the child's best interest.”

The court further held, “Here, the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law when it entered the underlying orders. In these circumstances, paternity was not in controversy and proof that Santos or some third party was the biological father would not provide a legitimate purpose for Mr. Santos' alleged conduct of stalking the family, writing threatening letters that contained personal photographs of Ms. Llanos to her husband and others, threatening to send those photos and other private video footage to Mr. Llanos' employer and neighbors, or violating an existing anti-stalking injunction. Under the same reasoning, the paternity of the child is not implicated in Mr. Santos' motion to set aside the agreed permanent anti-stalking injunction.”

This case presented an interesting issue and set of facts. If you need assistance with a Florida paternity case, contact a Miami family law attorney to set a consultation and go over the merits of your case.