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Department of Human Services v. Gaddis

December 31, 1998

DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
v.
MELVIN GADDIS



Before Prather, C.j., Roberts And Mills, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Prather, Chief Justice, For The Court:

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/23/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. SEBE DALE, JR.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MARION COUNTY CHANCERY COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

DISPOSITION: REVERSED AND REMANDED

STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND CASE

¶1. On October 5, 1996, Denice Quinn applied for and later began receiving public assistance from the Department of Human Services (" DHS") for herself and her three minor children. In applying for these benefits, Quinn was required to identify the father of any children for whom the assistance was to be received. Although she was married to Danny Quinn at the time of the birth of all three children, Quinn identified Melvin Gaddis as the biological father of her three children.

¶2. Upon receiving this information, DHS filed a complaint to determine the paternity of the three minor children and to establish a child support obligation for them. DHS's complaint named both Danny Quinn and Melvin Gaddis as defendants and alleged that Melvin Gaddis was the true biological father of the children in spite of Danny Quinn's legal presumption of paternity. DHS also filed a motion for genetic testing of Danny Quinn, Denice Quinn, Melvin Gaddis, and the three children in order to establish paternity. All of the parties except Gaddis complied with the Judge's order granting these tests, and the results showed with high probability that Danny Quinn could not be the biological father of the three minor children.

¶3. Gaddis filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that DHS lacked legal standing to bring an action to determine paternity against him. The Chancellor agreed, dismissing DHS's suit and denying DHS's motion to reconsider. DHS timely appealed to this Court.

ISSUE

Where children are receiving public assistance from the Department of Human Services, does the Department of Human Services have legal standing to bring an action against an alleged father to determine the paternity of those children, where the children are presumed to be the legitimate children of their mother's husband by virtue of having been born to a lawful marriage. Stated differently, does the Department of Human Services have legal standing to challenge the presumption of legitimacy of children for whom it is providing support in order to establish support in order to establish paternity in one alleged to be their true biological father?

ΒΆ4. The present appeal presents solely a question of law, and it is well established that this Court reviews questions of law on a de novo basis. The issue in the present case is whether or not DHS has legal standing to bring a suit to determine the paternity of children born to an existing marriage. It is well settled that children born within wedlock are legally presumed to be the natural children of the husband of the mother. Stone v. Stone, 210 So.2d 672 (Miss. 1968). This presumption, while strong, ...


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