The Third Department affirmed Family Court’s finding that the doctrine of equitable estoppel did not apply to petitioner’s application for an order of filiation. Equitable estoppel is triggered when the party seeking an order of filiation has acquiesced in the development of a parent-child relationship with another man. Here, although the child recognized some persons as “father figures” no parent-child relationship had developed with any single person:
“The doctrine of equitable estoppel is a defense in a paternity proceeding which, among other applications, precludes a man . . . from asserting his paternity when he acquiesced in the establishment of a strong parent-child bond between the child and another man” … . The party asserting application of the doctrine — here, the attorney for the children — “has the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case to support that claim” … . Assuming that burden is met, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party — here, petitioner — to establish that it would be in the best interests of the children to order the genetic marker test … .
… [W]e agree with Family Court that application of the doctrine of equitable estoppel is not warranted here. Although the children’s therapist testified on direct (and respondent testified on rebuttal) that the girls do not recognize petitioner as their father, “[n]oticeably absent from the record is any indication that [another identified individual] played a significant role in raising, nuturing or caring for [respondent’s children]” … . To the contrary, both the therapist and respondent acknowledged that the children identified a number of individuals as “father figures” in their lives … . Hence, establishing petitioner’s paternity would not disrupt an existing parent-child relationship between the children and another individual … . Matter of Patrick A. v Rochelle B., 2016 NY Slip Op 00079, 3rd Dept 1-7-16
FAMILY LAW (EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL DID NOT APPLY TO PETITIONER’S REQUEST FOR AN ORDER OF FILIATION)/EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL (FAMILY LAW, EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL DID NOT APPLY TO PETITIONER’S REQUEST FOR AN ORDER OF FILIATION)/FILIATION, ORDER OF (EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL DID NOT APPLY TO PETITIONER’S REQUEST)/PATERNITY (EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL DID NOT APPLY TO PETITIONER’S REQUEST FOR AN ORDER OF FILIATION)