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A Better Partnership
August 31, 2015

COA: Unchallenged DNA evidence plus a reasonable belief that an individual may be the biological father of a child is enough to establish a mistake of fact under Michigan’s Revocation of Paternity Act

In Rogers v. Wcisel, No. 318395, the Court of Appeals held that uncontested DNA evidence plus some belief that an individual was the biological father at the time of signing the acknowledgment of parentage creates enough evidence sufficient to prove mistake of fact for purposes of revoking an acknowledgment of parentage under Michigan’s Revocation of Paternity Act, MCL 722.1431 et seq. Therefore, the Court concluded that the trial court committed clear error in not finding that defendant had established a mistake of fact.
Plaintiff, Shana Rogers, and defendant, David Wcisel, were dating when Rogers gave birth to MW on March 12, 2007. Wcisel was present for MW’s delivery and signed an acknowledgment of parentage at the hospital. The couple parted ways in 2008 and, on July 3, 2008, Rogers filed a complaint for child support against Wcisel, which the court granted.  Sometime later, Wcisel noticed that MW had “physical attributions” that were not his and asked Rogers for a DNA test. The DNA test results unequivocally showed that Wcisel was not MW’s biological father. Thereafter, on July 15, 2012, Wcisel filed a motion requesting that the trial court revoke his acknowledgment of parentage, relieve him of any child support obligations, and reimburse him for the child support expenses he had previously paid.
The trial court accepted that the acknowledgment of parentage was not correct and Rogers agreed that the DNA test proved Wcisel was not MW’s biological father. However, the trial court would not revoke the acknowledgment of parentage on the grounds that Wcisel did not sufficiently prove mistake of fact under the Act, MCL 722.1437(2). The court reasoned that evidence showed Wcisel may have doubted he was the biological father when he signed the acknowledgment of parentage. Wcisel appealed.
The Court of Appeals concluded that Wcisel established sufficient evidence to prove mistake of fact under the Act because the DNA test was unchallenged and Wcisel offered evidence to show that he had at least some belief that he was the biological father when he signed the acknowledgment of parentage. The Court reasoned that so long as a decision to acknowledge paternity is based, at least in part, on a mistaken belief that the individual is the biological father, a mistake of fact exists.  However, an unchallenged DNA test, standing alone, is insufficient to prove a mistake of fact. Therefore, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order and remanded for further proceedings.

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