Department of Social Services v. Carter

Decision Date04 October 1993
Docket NumberDocket No. 154012
Citation506 N.W.2d 603,201 Mich.App. 643
PartiesDEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, and Debra Gates, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Timothy CARTER, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Larry J. Burdick, Pros. Atty., and Robert A. Holmes, Jr., Asst. Pros. Atty., Mount Pleasant, for Dept. of Social Services.

Lynn R. Chamberlain, Mount Pleasant, for defendant.

Before SHEPHERD, P.J., and HOLBROOK and MacKENZIE, JJ.

SHEPHERD, Presiding Judge.

Defendant appeals as of right the circuit court's order of filiation and support. We affirm.

I

The underlying facts of this case are as follows. On June 1, 1985, plaintiff Debra K. Gates married Michael D. John. In August or September, 1985, Gates and John were separated and ceased having sexual relations. When John filed for divorce on June 12, 1986, there was no mention of any minor children born of the marriage. On or about June 20, 1986, Gates and defendant, Timothy Carter, engaged in sexual relations.

John filed an amended complaint for divorce on June 24, 1986, specifically alleging that there were no minor children born of the marriage. On August 29, 1986, a judgment of divorce was entered following a hearing that Gates did not attend. At the hearing, John stated that there were no children born of the marriage and that Gates was not pregnant. After the divorce was entered, Gates learned that she was pregnant, giving birth to Detera Ann Gates on March 20, 1987.

On May 24, 1988, plaintiffs, the Isabella County Department of Social Services and Gates, filed a complaint for an order of filiation against defendant, alleging that plaintiff Gates was not married from the conception to the birth of the minor child and that defendant was the father of the minor child. In response, defendant filed a motion for summary disposition, alleging that the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction under the Paternity Act, M.C.L. § 722.711 et seq.; M.S.A. § 25.491 et seq., because the minor child was not born out of wedlock, having been conceived while Gates was married to John. Defendant also alleged that plaintiffs did not have standing to pursue the claim against him.

On September 1, 1988, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint for an order of filiation, alleging that Debra Gates "was married to Michael David John at the time of conception, but not at the time of birth, and said child is not an issue of the marriage." After a hearing on November 2, 1988, the trial court denied defendant's motion for summary disposition, but ordered a hearing to determine whether the child was born out of wedlock within the meaning of the Paternity Act. The court ordered a blood test of John, but held in abeyance the question of a blood test of defendant pending the outcome of this evidentiary hearing.

On April 5, 1991, an evidentiary hearing was held to determine whether John was the father of the minor child. After reviewing John's blood test results, the trial court denied defendant's motion for summary disposition in an opinion entered on April 25, 1991, determining that the child was not the issue of the marriage between Gates and John. The trial court further granted plaintiffs' motion for a blood test of defendant.

On May 20, 1991, defendant filed a renewed motion for summary disposition, which the trial court denied on October 4, 1991. Following a May 26, 1992, nonjury paternity trial, the trial court concluded that even though Gates' child was conceived during the marriage, the child was not the issue of the marriage between her and John. The court further concluded that defendant was the father of the minor child, given that the probability of paternity was 99.9868 percent.

On appeal, defendant contends that the court did not have jurisdiction over him and that plaintiffs did not have standing to sue under the Paternity Act, M.C.L. § 722.711 et seq.; M.S.A. § 25.491 et seq. Specifically, defendant argues that the child was conceived during the marriage between Gates and John and that at the time plaintiffs filed their paternity complaint there had been no prior court determination whether the child was "born out of wedlock," as required by Girard v. Wagenmaker, 437 Mich. 231, 470 N.W.2d 372 (1991).

II

We note that subject-matter jurisdiction and standing are not the same thing. Altman v. Nelson, 197 Mich.App. 467, 472-474, 495 N.W.2d 826 (1992). Circuit courts have subject-matter jurisdiction of actions to identify the father of a child born out of wedlock. M.C.L. § 722.714(3); M.S.A. § 25.494(3); Syrkowski v. Appleyard, 420 Mich. 367, 375, 362 N.W.2d 211 (1985); Morrison v. Richerson, 198 Mich.App. 202, 206, 497 N.W.2d 506 (1993). In the instant case, the circuit court had subject-matter jurisdiction, because the allegations in the amended complaint for an order of filiation and support state that the minor child was not an issue of Gates' marriage with Michael John.

In order to have standing to seek relief under the Paternity Act, a plaintiff must allege that a child was born out of wedlock. M.C.L. § 722.714(6); M.S.A. § 25.494(6); Altman, supra, 197 Mich.App. pp. 475-476, 495 N.W.2d 826. M.C.L. § 722.711(a); M.S.A. § 25.491(a) defines "child born out of wedlock" to be "a child begotten and born to a woman who was not married from the conception to the date of birth of the child, or a child which the court has determined to be a child born or conceived during a marriage but not the issue of that marriage." In the instant case, plaintiffs have standing to seek relief under the Paternity Act, because they alleged that the child was born out of wedlock. Furthermore, we note that the trial court has already determined that the child was conceived during Gates' marriage with John, but was not the issue of that marriage.

Contrary to defendant's assertion, the trial court did not have to determine whether the child was an issue of a marriage before plaintiffs could file the complaint alleging that the child was born out of wedlock and that defendant was the father of the child. First, we note that in Syrkowski, a case involving a surrogate parenting agreement, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court had subject-matter jurisdiction under the Paternity Act to make a determination whether the child was born out of wedlock during the proceedings in the plaintiff's action for an order of filiation.

Second, we note that the statutory language does not expressly state that there must be a determination that a child was not an issue of a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
5 cases
  • Sprenger v. Bickle
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • September 10, 2013
    ...805;Tyler, 348 Mich. at 172, 82 N.W.2d 448;DeHaan v. DeHaan, 348 Mich. 199, 200, 82 N.W.2d 432 (1957); Dep't of Social Servs. v. Carter, 201 Mich.App. 643, 644, 506 N.W.2d 603 (1993). In this case, this Court has the benefit of neither defendant's complaint for divorce nor a record of the p......
  • Opland v. Kiesgan
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • March 5, 1999
    ...that her child was not an issue of the marriage through postjudgment divorce proceedings." Similarly in Dep't of Social Services v. Carter, 201 Mich.App. 643, 649, 506 N.W.2d 603 (1993), we stated: "After obtaining an amended judgment of divorce that provided that the minor child was not th......
  • Hauser v. Reilly, Docket No. 159444
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • July 18, 1995
    ...of wedlock. Dep't of Social Services v. Baayoun, 204 Mich.App. 170, 175, 514 N.W.2d 522 (1994); but see Dep't of Social Services v. Carter, 201 Mich.App. 643, 648, 506 N.W.2d 603 (1993) (the DSS has standing under the Paternity Act when it is undisputed that the child was born out of In thi......
  • American Federation of State, County and Mun. Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO v. Department of Mental Health
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • August 1, 1994
    ...595 (1993). Contrary to the DMH's argument, standing and subject-matter jurisdiction are not the same. Dep't. of Social Services v. Carter, 201 Mich.App. 643, 646, 506 N.W.2d 603 (1993); Altman v. Nelson, 197 Mich.App. 467, 472, 495 N.W.2d 826 (1992). It is clear that plaintiffs have standi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT