Carole and Gerald were
married. They had a child named Victoria.
Scandalously, it turned out
that Carole had been having an affair with Michael.
A blood test established
that Michael was most likely the father.
Carole left Gerald for
Michael, but then left Michael for Scott.
Michael sued for visitation
rights, and to be declared Victoria's
Victoria's guardian ad litem
filed a complaint asserting that Victoria had multiple 'psychological
fathers' (Gerald, Michael, Scott) and was entitled to a filial
relationship (and child support) from all of them.
Carole moved back in with
Gerald, but then left him again and moved in with Michael. But then she
left Michael and moved back in with Gerald.
Michael reestablished his
suit to be declared the father.
Gerald intervened, and argued
that under California law (Cal.Evid.Code §621), when a child is born to a married couple
living together (as Victoria was), then the child is conclusively presumed
to be the husband's.
This presumption can only be
rebutted if the husband or wife makes a motion to do so, and in this case
Carole and Gerald did not do so because they wanted Victoria.
The Trial Court granted
summary judgment and dismissed the case.
The Trial Court found the
presumption of paternity in §621
to be dispositive.
Michael argued that §621 was an unconstitutional violation of substantive
due process and his fundamental right to custody of his children.
The US Supreme Court found
that Michael had no parental rights to Victoria.
The US Supreme Court noted
that Victoria could not have dual fathers, so declaring Michael to be the
father would terminate Gerald's rights to Victoria.
The Court noted that there
was no historical precedent for granting parental rights to the children
of adulterous affairs to the adulteror. Therefore, there was no fundamental
Basically, in order to be a
fundamental right it has to be
something that is so ingrained in the culture it would be implicit in
the Constitution. But giving Michael custody would be a break from
precedent, so his interests can't be considered 'fundamental.'
If anything, Gerald's
presumption of legitimacy is the fundamental principle of common law.
Since there was no fundamental
right at issue, California was free
to enact §621without running afoul of substantive due
In a dissent it was argued
that traditional notions of family were changing, and that looking at
historical precedent to make modern decisions was "one of make
believe," especially considering that a blood test had proved Michael
was factually the father.