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Megan Smith, '13, and Civil Practice Clinic Win Big For Client

08/08/2013

An Indianapolis man was able to win his case and disestablish paternity with help from the IU McKinney Civil Practice Clinic. Professor Carrie Hagan and Melinda Mains, ’12, served as supervising attorneys; and Megan Smith, ’13, was the law student on the case. Smith received the case in September 2012, and it was concluded in May 2013.

(In the photo, from left, are Melinda Mains, Megan Smith, and Professor Carrie Hagan.)

“Indiana code doesn’t provide an avenue for disestablishing paternity,” Smith explained. “This case really points up inconsistencies in how to disestablish paternity. There are several instances of case law and public policies that conflict with each other.”

Professor Hagan agreed.

“Challenging paternity in Indiana is not only a difficult process in that the facts of each case are many times very complicated, but also because there are very few challenges that can be made to set paternity aside successfully,” the professor said.

The man had been adjudicated the father of a child 18 years ago when he failed to appear for the paternity hearing; the court record actually contradicts itself as to whether he received notice, Smith said.

Court records related to hearings in 1995 include conflicting information about whether the man appeared and admitted paternity or whether he did not appear because of a lack of notice. In October of that year he was adjudicated the father during a hearing at which he did not appear. The court record of that hearing does not show evidence of him receiving notice.

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office made two unsuccessful attempts to contact the man in 2003 and 2004, both aimed at collecting child support payments.

But that’s not the end of the string of seemingly contradictory occurrences in the case. The prosecutor’s office sent information that the man was delinquent in his child support payments to credit reporting agencies, Smith said. Prosecutors also made multiple attempts to suspend his driver’s license after he’d been excluded as the father from the results of a DNA test in February 2013.

Ultimately, Smith and her supervising attorneys were able to prevail on behalf of their client.

“Megan had to do a lot of in-depth research looking for an answer that was not specifically provided for by the law,” Professor Hagan said. “She not only did an outstanding job at researching, but she also was able to clearly organize and present her findings to both the court and the opposing parties. Her ability to take large amounts of information and condense her findings into persuasive advocacy is outstanding. Her skills in these areas and others will make her an excellent attorney.”


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