The Plank

Maryland's Confused Stance On Paternity

By and

There's an interesting paternity debate going on in Maryland right now that has nothing to do with a playmate's child-heir to an oil tycoon's billions. Vicki Trembow had a son, Ivan, with a man to whom she was not married. The father moved away and became a successful lawyer. Vicki Trembow never sought child support and raised Ivan alone. But when Ivan was diagnosed with a debilitating bone disease, years of medical bills caught up with her. She sued the father for help with the expenses.

"It was too late. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in June that Trembow couldn't pursue support because Ivan is older than 18, the age at which the state cuts off claims to establish paternity. If his parents had married, state law would require support from both because of his disability."

What?! Stopping paternity testing at 18 makes sense because the child is an adult and responsibility for that child--financial not moral--stops at adulthood. But if the state is going to enforce fiduciary responsibility on the father when the child is over 18 if the father had a marital relationship with the mother, then the state must do so in any situation. Asking a father to be responsible for an adult son he acknowledged at one point (through marriage to the mother) but not asking that same father to be responsible if he never acknowledged the son makes no sense. The state needs to establish whether or not a father can be financially responsible for an adult child. If the state rules that a father can still be responsible for a child over 18 in certain situations (like disability), then paternity testing cannot stop at age 18.

If the state is going to impose fiduciary responsibility on some fathers of adult children but not others, that's a problem.

--Sacha Zimmerman

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