Baker v. Lankford, A10A1211
*All courts mentioned are at the state level.
- Wife gave birth to a son while married to Husband. Husband was listed on the birth certificate and believed he was the child’s biological father.
- Wife later told Husband that he was not the child’s biological father. Wife then moved out of the marital home. Husband paid child support and filed for divorce.
- While the divorce was pending, the biological father filed a petition for legitimation, custody, and visitation. Wife consented to the legitimation, but Husband filed a motion to intervene and to dismiss the legitimation proceeding.
- While Husband’s motion to intervene was pending, the trial court granted the legitimation petition, and then denied Husband’s motion.
- Husband appealed and contended that the trial court erred in denying his motion to intervene. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed.
- The requirements to intervene pursuant to O.C.G.A. 9-11-24 are threefold: interest, impairment resulting from an unfavorable disposition, and inadequate representation.
- The Court of Appeals explained that Husband clearly had an interest as he was the child’s legal father. A child’s legal father is defined as the man who was married to the child’s biological mother at the time the child was conceived or born, unless such paternity was disproved by a final order.
- The Georgia Supreme Court (In re White) has made clear that there can be no doubt that a man married to a woman at the time of conception or birth is a party in interest when another man claims fatherhood of the child in a legitimation proceeding.
- Additionally, the Court of Appeals explained that a man has no absolute right to the grant of his petition to legitimate a child simply because he is the biological father.
- The Court of Appeals held that Husband’s interest as the child’s legal father would be impaired by a decision of the trial court that was unfavorable to him, and his interest was not adequately represented by the parties to the action.
- Bruce F. Morriss and Daniel Shim for appellant
- Denise D. VanLunduyt for appellee
- Alison K. Arce for appellee
DeKalb Superior Court; Judge Linda Hunter