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In re Nicholas H.

Supreme Court of California
46 P.3d 932 (Cal. 2002)


Facts

Nicholas was born to Kimberly six years ago. Thomas (plaintiff) lived with Kimberly at the time Nicholas was born and had been the only constant in Nicholas’s life. Thomas had lived with Nicholas for long periods of time and had provided him with financial and strong emotional support. Kimberly, on the other hand, had been “a frail reed for Nicholas to lean upon.” She used drugs, was not regularly employed, and exhibited violence toward others, including Nicholas. There is a presumption under California law that “a man who receives a child into his home and openly holds the child out as his natural child is presumed to be the natural father of the child.” Under the law, this presumption “may be rebutted in an appropriate action only by clear and convincing evidence.” Alternatively, the presumption “is rebutted by a judgment establishing paternity of the child by another man.” Under the law Thomas was initially presumed to be Nicholas’s natural father because he had raised him. However, Thomas admitted that he is not Nicholas’s biological father. Kimberly stated that Nicholas’s true biological father is a man named Jason who she could not locate and who had not come forward. As a result, no judgment had established that Jason is in fact the true biological father. When Thomas was arrested for failure to complete an anger management course that was required on account of an earlier crime, the police placed Nicholas in the custody of social services. Thomas filed suit to re-obtain custody of Nicholas. The juvenile court found in favor of Thomas. The court of appeal reversed, holding that the presumption that Thomas was the father had been rebutted because Thomas admitted that he was not the biological father. Thomas appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Brown, J.)

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