• May 6, 2011

During their marriage, Lynette Marthe and then-husband, Derek Reiter, had a child, D.T.R.  Both Marthe and Reiter believe that Reiter was D.T.R.’s biological father and was listed as the father on the birth certificate (whether this was a “long form” certificate is not known).   Four years later, however, genetic testing established that D.T.R.’s biological father was actually Michael Richards.  Richards then sought joint legal custody and parenting time with D.T.R., naming Marthe and Reiter as parties.  After weighing the competing presumptions under the Parentage Act, the court adjudicated Reiter as the legal father and dismissed Richard’s petition.  Richards did not appeal, but Marthe did.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissed on the ground that Marthe lacked standing to appeal.  Marthe then petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court for review.

The Supreme Court did not address the issue of paternity, focusing only on the question of standing.  The Court began by noting that standing to appeal may be conferred by statute or by an appellant’s status as an “aggrieved party.”  A party is aggrieved if that person had a direct interest in the litigation and that person’s rights were “injuriously affected” by the adjudication.

Reiter asserted that because he was adjudicated the father and is obligated to pay child support, Marthe’s rights were not adversely affected and that she thus had no standing to appeal.  The Court disagreed, noting that child support is a function of the parents’ combined income and the obligations of the parents depend on a comparison of their respective incomes.  Therefore the identity of either parent has a direct impact on the amount of child support to be paid by each parent.  The determination of the father also directly impacts the mother’s responsibility for care, control, and custody of the child.  Accordingly, Marthe had standing to appeal the paternity determination as an aggrieved party.

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