ERIC FISCHER v. RICHARD ZOLLINO, SC 18654
Judicial District of Middlesex at Middletown
Family Law; Paternity; Equitable Estoppel; Whether Former Husband is Entitled to Reimbursement of Expenses of Child Fathered by Another Man During Marriage. During the plaintiff's marriage to his wife, two children were born: Olivia, in 1986, and Alicia, in 1992. The plaintiff, alleging that he discovered in 2007 that he was not Alicia's biological father and claiming that the defendant was her biological father, brought this action sounding in unjust enrichment, misrepresentation and nondisclosure, seeking reimbursement for the expenses that he incurred in supporting Alicia. Following a trial, the court rendered judgment for the defendant. Although the court determined that the defendant was Alicia's biological father, it concluded that the plaintiff was estopped from denying his financial responsibility for Alicia. In reaching this conclusion, the court relied on laws pertaining to issues of paternity and child support. First, noting that there was little Connecticut case law on the reimbursement issue presented, the court examined cases involving the application of the principle of equitable estoppel to preclude a man from denying paternity. It found that, considering the best interests of the child, it would be contrary to public policy to permit the plaintiff to dispute his paternity at such a late date. The court was also persuaded by the unwillingness of courts in several other jurisdictions to find in favor of former putative fathers seeking reimbursement for payments made on behalf of children whom they had believed to be their offspring. The court explained that the decisions in those cases were based on the public policy rationale that the best interests of the child trump the financial interests of a former putative father. In addition, the court was guided by case law interpreting our statutes that provide for retroactive child support. The plaintiff now appeals, claiming that the trial court improperly concluded that (1) he was equitably estopped from pursing his reimbursement claim, and (2) the recovery of damages from the biological father would be adverse to the best interests of Alicia.