Michael H. v. Gerald D.

PETITIONER: Michael H. et al.
RESPONDENT: Gerald D.
LOCATION: California State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 87-746
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 491 US 110 (1989)
ARGUED: Oct 11, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1989

ADVOCATES:
Larry M. Hoffman - argued the cause for the appellee
Robert A.W. Boraks - argued the cause for the appellants

Facts of the case

Gerald D. was the presumptive father of Victoria D. since she was born to his wife Carole D.. However, Carole had an adulterous partner, Michael H., who obtained blood tests indicating that he was likely the biological father. When Michael obtained visitation rights in a California state court, Gerald argued that Michael had no ground under California law to challenge Gerald's paternity since more than two years had passed since Victoria's birth. According to Cal. Evid. Code 621, the child is "presumed to be a child of the marriage" and another man can only challenge this presumption within two years of birth. The court ruled in favor of Gerald and canceled Michael's visitation rights. Michael claimed that Code 621 violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by denying him an opportunity to establish his paternity. A California Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Code 621.

Question

Does Cal. Evid. Code 621 violate the Due Process Clause by denying a possible biological father the chance to establish his paternity of a child after two years have passed since the child's birth?

Media for Michael H. v. Gerald D.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 11, 1988 in Michael H. v. Gerald D.

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 87-746, Michael H. and Victoria D. v. Gerald D..

Mr. Boraks, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Robert A.W. Boraks:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

Before the Court is the case of a natural father whose claim of paternity was precluded by the operation of a California state statute, which had the effect of terminating an existing parent-child relationship.

Also before the Court is the natural father's daughter, who is represented by a court-appointed independent guardian ad litem.

Both are here challenging the Constitutionality of that California statute.

With the Court's permission I would like to begin with a synopsis of the pertinent facts in this case.

In the fall of 1980, Michael was having an intimate relationship with Carole, who was married to Gerald.

Carole became pregnant with Michael's child.

Victoria, the child, was born in May of 1981.

Michael, Carole and Victoria subsequently had an HLA test done which showed a 98.06, I believe, percent probability of paternity.

In November of 1982, Michael filed suit in the California courts to have himself declared Victoria's father.

William H. Rehnquist:

This was while the mother was married to Gerald, right?

Robert A.W. Boraks:

I believe that all of the events I'm describing, Your Honor, occurred while--

William H. Rehnquist:

They have never been divorced?

Robert A.W. Boraks:

--Not to my knowledge.

Certainly not as of the end of the record in this case.

In his suit Michael asked to be declared Victoria's father, he asked that the court set a reasonable support level for him to provide, and he asked for the court to allow him visitation.

After the suit was filed, there came a time when Carole and Victoria lived with Michael, and they lived with Michael throughout most of the third year of Victoria's life.

During that period Michael was held out by Carole and by himself to the world and to Victoria as Victoria's father.

He cared for the child, he supported the child and the mother, and in all respects he assumed the role of father.

And as a consequence, Victoria came to know him as her daddy and a parent-child relationship developed between the two of them.

This lasted until around May of 1984 when Carole broke up with Michael.

Antonin Scalia:

How long was that period in all?

Robert A.W. Boraks:

There were two separate periods, the one I've just described--

Antonin Scalia:

When the child was living with Michael.

Robert A.W. Boraks:

--As I say, there were two separate periods.

The one I just described was from about August of 1983 till around late April, early May of 1984.

Eight, nine, maybe 10 months.