In the Matter of the Paternity of AAE, TE v. Wy. Dep’t of Family Services (Wyoming 2020)
A nonparty has no standing to participate in an action. A court can’t deny a petition to establish paternity once a genetic test is completed and the results meet the statutory threshold. The Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS) filed to terminate the parental rights of the mother, the child’s presumed father, and the child’s biological father. The mother and the presumed father relinquished their rights. The biological father filed a petition to establish paternity in the termination action. DFS filed a motion to strike this petition, arguing that DFS wasn’t an appropriate party to the paternity action. He then filed a separate action, which was joined with the termination proceeding. The district court ordered genetic testing and was found to be the child’s biological father. The district court entered a paternity order but vacated it and held a paternity hearing. In its final order, the district court denied the paternity petition, finding it wasn’t filed in a reasonable amount of time. The father appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the order on two grounds and remanded for an order adjudicating the father’s paternity. DFS wasn’t a party to the paternity action. The Court noted the joinder of actions didn’t automatically make DFS a party to the paternity case. Second, the Court found that once a court orders genetic testing, it cannot deny a petition to establish paternity if the test results meet the statutory threshold. The district court could consider the reasonableness of the filing before ordering genetic testing but not after.