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Stepfather proves paternity, but no change in child custody

Families can be complex. As couples with children divorce and remarry, a family can often be comprised of several different elements. Many families in New Hampshire are left working to blend these elements together, sometimes requiring a family court to make a decision. One out-of-state couple's recent attempt to change a child custody order to exclude the man previously thought the be a child's biological father was not successful.

The case involved a couple who were married for approximately nine years, divorcing in 2009. As part of their divorce agreement, the couple decided to share custody of two children born while they were married. The mother remarried, and her new husband established paternity of the second child in 2014.

As a result, the new couple filed a lawsuit requesting that the child not be considered a child of the prior marriage. The woman's ex-husband, and non-biological father of the child, objected to the motion. He argued that the child had spent his entire life spending approximately half his time with the man he considered to be his father.

A trial court ruled against the woman and her new husband. They appealed the case, and the state appeals court recently upheld the original ruling. As part of the judgment, the court found that the woman and the man thought to be the child's biological father at the time agreed that it was in the best interest of the child to divide his time equally between them in their divorce agreement. Even though it was subsequently determined that a different man was the biological father, that initial determination of the best interest of the child still stood.

Because of the complexity of some family situations, it becomes necessary for the court to step in and make a child custody decision. In this case, the court had to decide between the biological father and the father who raised the child for his entire life. Sometimes, parents in New Hampshire also find themselves unable to come to an agreement regarding the best interest of a child. An experienced attorney can help a parent understand his or or options and take appropriate legal action, if necessary.

Source:, "Stepfather who proved paternity can't deprive ex of joint custody", Dave Stafford, May 31, 2016

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