RECENT CONNECTICUT DECISION RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TRUE MEANING OF PATERNITYPosted: February 4, 2012
The Connecticut Supreme Court recently overturned a lower court ruling that prevented a Connecticut man, Eric Fischer, from seeking money damages against the biological father of a child Fischer had raised believing her to be his own. Back in 2008 , shortly after Fischer and the girl’s mother divorced, a lower court ruled that allowing a suit for damages against the proven biological father would potentially cause emotional trauma to the child, then in her mid-teens. The decision was based on the legal principle of equitable estoppel.
In layman’s terms, and in the context of this case, this means that the court thought it would be unfair for Mr. Fischer to deny –truthfully or not– that he was the father of a child he had treated as his daughter and who had known him as her father.
Now, the State’s high court has ruled that the lawsuit against the biological father may proceed. Through it, Fischer seeks to recover nearly $200,000 in child-rearing costs from the biological father, Richard Zollino –a former business partner of the child’s mother.
The young woman at the heart of the dispute is now 19 years old — legally an adult — and her name was released as part of the Court’s decision. Not surprisingly, the case has received attention from the press so whether or not the family secret had been shared with the young woman, she will now need to grapple with how to deal with a wider public discussion of her parentage and, more importantly, of Mr. Fischer’s priorities.
The dollars involved are substantial and there is certainly enough culpability to spread around among the adults, however that doesn’t make the case a simple one.