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Diaz v. Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 10, 2019

SPENCER DIAZ APPELLANT
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, STATE OF MISSISSIPPI AND LORA M. LEDET APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/14/2018

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HANCOCK COUNTY CHANCERY COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JENNIFER T. SCHLOEGEL

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: NITA LOUISE CHASE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: MATTHEW GARRETT CLARK MELANIE ANN SMITH LORA M. LEDET (PRO SE)

          BEFORE CARLTON, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND McCARTY, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. Spencer Diaz filed a petition for disestablishment of paternity and termination of parental rights of a child he shared with Lora Ledet, alleging that his signature on the acknowledgment of paternity was a forgery. Following a trial, the chancery court denied Diaz's petition and Diaz appeals. After review of the record, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Lora Ledet and Diaz began dating when Lora was about 8 or 9 months pregnant. At trial, Lora testified that she was "ready to pop" when she began dating Diaz. Lora gave birth to her son, John[1], in October 2010. John's last name was listed as "Ledet" on his birth certificate, and no father was listed. Lora and Diaz eventually moved in together. Diaz testified that he provided financial support for Lora and her three children, including John.

         ¶3. Lora testified that on April 15, 2014, she and Diaz executed a simple acknowledgment of paternity under Mississippi Code Annotated section 93-9-28 (Rev. 2013), stating that Diaz was John's father. Ten days later, the Department of Vital Records issued an amended birth certificate, listing "Spencer Diaz" as John's father and listing John's last name as "Diaz." Diaz, however, testified that he never signed the acknowledgment and does not know how his signature appeared on the document. Diaz also testified that the notary's seal was placed on the document in a location which caused the notary's name and ID number to be totally obscured.

         ¶4. Lora and Diaz parted ways in October 2015. The Department of Human Services filed a complaint for support and other relief against Diaz in November 2016, requesting the chancellor order Diaz to provide child support and medical support for John. Diaz maintains that the complaint was the first time he had received notice that he was John's legal father.

         ¶5. In January 2017, Diaz filed a complaint to disestablish paternity of John alleging that his signature on the acknowledgment was a forgery. Following a trial, the chancery court denied Diaz's petition for disestablishment of paternity, termination of parental rights, and other relief in February 2018. Aggrieved, Diaz appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6. "The admission of evidence is within the discretion of the chancellor, and reversal is not warranted unless judicial discretion is abused." Sproles v. Sproles, 782 So.2d 742, 749 (ΒΆ29) (Miss. 2001) ...


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