CHARLESTON – Wood Circuit Judge J.D. Beane properly ordered a man to support another man's child, the Supreme Court of Appeals decided on Oct. 13.
Although the man proved someone else fathered the child, the Justices affirmed Beane in enforcing a paternity order against him at $90 a month.
They adopted Beane's reasoning that the man couldn't deny paternity because he held himself out as father for 14 months after learning the truth.
They agreed with Beane that the child could suffer great harm if she had no legal father and didn't receive financial or other support from her legal father.
The mother gave birth two months after her marriage, at age 16, in 1998.
She filed for divorce in 2000 but did not follow through. He filed for divorce in 2003, and Magistrate Annette Fantasia granted it in 2005.
In 2007, Fantasia ordered him to support the child. Beane affirmed the order in 2008, finding the alleged father was reportedly in jail.
He wrote that "the biological father is not present to support the child financially or have a relationship with the child on a consistent basis."
He wrote that the child considered him her father at least until age four.
In his appeal, Michele Rusen of Parkersburg wrote that no one but her client ever tried to find the father.
For the mother, Catherine Adams of Legal Aid of West Virginia in Parkersburg argued that the former husband squandered an opportunity.
"Just like many biological parents, it seems he no longer cared whether his child was well, comfortable and had the opportunities child support could provide," she wrote.