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WILLIAMS v. LAMBERT

October 24, 1995

ELIZABETH W. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff, against BENJAMIN V. LAMBERT, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPRIZZO

 SPRIZZO, D.J.,

 The facts underlying the instant action, summarized briefly herein, are the subject of two previous opinions. See Williams v. Lambert, 844 F. Supp. 963 (S.D.N.Y. 1994), vacated and remanded, 46 F.3d 1275 (2d Cir. 1995).

 Following a brief intimate relationship with defendant Benjamin Lambert, plaintiff Elizabeth Williams gave birth to a son on March 27, 1988. See Williams, 46 F.3d at 1277; Williams, 844 F. Supp. at 963. In 1990, DNA test results indicated the high probability that Lambert is the father of the child. Williams, 46 F.2d at 1277. In April 1990, Williams commenced a paternity suit against Lambert in the Family Court of the State of New York. Williams, 844 F. Supp. at 963. Prior to any judicial determination regarding paternity, however, Lambert and Williams entered into a voluntary support agreement (the "Support Agreement") pursuant to section 516 of the New York Family Court Act. *fn1" Id. at 963-64.

 Under the Support Agreement, Lambert agreed to pay Williams $ 250,000 for the support of the child. See Williams, 844 F. Supp. at 964. In return, Williams agreed to waive, release and discharge all claims in connection with the child's birth, support, education and maintenance. Id. The parties also agreed that, pursuant to section 516(c), the complete performance of the Support Agreement by Lambert would preclude all future remedies arising out of the child's birth, support, education and maintenance. *fn2" Id.

 On October 30, 1992, Lambert commenced an action in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against Williams for, inter alia, breach of the Support Agreement and a declaratory judgment that the Support Agreement was enforceable and that its enforcement did not deprive Williams of equal protection of the laws merely because such an agreement would not bar modification claims by legitimate offspring. See Brescia v. Fitts, 56 N.Y.2d 132, 451 N.Y.S.2d 68, 436 N.E.2d 518 (1982). On November 9, 1992, Williams commenced the instant declaratory action against Lambert claiming that section 516 violates the equal protection rights of illegitimate children by denying them the right, afforded legitimate children, to modify child support agreements.

 On February 22, 1993, Lambert moved to either stay or dismiss the instant action upon various grounds. On March 23, 1993, Williams cross-moved for partial summary judgment arguing that section 516 is unconstitutional. By order dated June 16, 1993, the Court denied the respective motions in order to first address the applicability of the abstention doctrine.

 By memorandum opinion and order dated March 2, 1994, the Court stayed the federal action under Railroad Comm'n of Texas v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496, 85 L. Ed. 971, 61 S. Ct. 643 (1941). See Williams v. Lambert, 844 F. Supp. 963 (S.D.N.Y. 1994). The Court held that, in light of the United States Supreme Court ruling in Clark v. Jeter, 486 U.S. 456, 100 L. Ed. 2d 465, 108 S. Ct. 1910 (1988), the New York Court of Appeals should be afforded an opportunity to reconsider its decision upholding the constitutionality of section 516 in Bacon v. Bacon, 46 N.Y.2d 477, 414 N.Y.S.2d 307, 386 N.E.2d 1327 (1979). On appeal, the Second Circuit vacated and remanded that holding. See Williams v. Lambert, 46 F.3d 1275 (2d Cir. 1995).

 Following the remand, the parties appeared for a pre-trial conference on May 16, 1995. At that conference, the Court indicated that it would consider a renewed motion for partial summary judgment by Williams based upon the papers previously submitted. *fn3"

 DISCUSSION

 On remand, the only remaining issue is whether Williams, the mother of an illegitimate child, may seek additional support from Lambert. The Court holds that, notwithstanding the decision in Bacon, supra, Williams's effort to modify the Support Agreement is not and cannot be barred by section 516(c) of the Family Court Act.

 Over fifteen years ago, in Bacon v. Bacon, 46 N.Y.2d 477, 414 N.Y.S.2d 307, 386 N.E.2d 1327 (1979), the New York Court of Appeals concluded that because the plain language of section 516 discriminated between legitimate and illegitimate children, an intermediate level of scrutiny must be applied. See Bacon, 46 N.Y.2d at 479. The court recognized that statutory classifications premised upon illegitimacy must be "'substantially related to permissible state interests,'" id. at 479 (quoting Lalli v. Lalli, 439 U.S. 259, 259, 58 L. Ed. 2d 503, 99 S. Ct. 518 (1978)), but concluded that, in light of the "complex and difficult problems of proof" involved in paternity proceedings, section 516 furthered several important state interests. Id. The court also concluded that the statute was "related, in a substantial respect, to [these] permissible and salutary governmental interests" and upheld the constitutionality of section 516. Id.

 Since Bacon, however, the United States Supreme Court has consistently struck down statutory classifications based upon illegitimacy. In Mills v. Habluetzel: 456 U.S. 91, 102 S. Ct. 1549, 71 L. Ed. 2d 770 (1982), the Supreme Court held that the State of Texas could not constitutionally provide a one-year statute of limitations in which illegitimate children could establish paternity when such a short period of limitations was not applicable to legitimate offspring. *fn4" In Pickett v. Brown, 462 U.S. 1, 76 L. Ed. 2d 372, 103 S. Ct. 2199 (1983), the Court held that a two-year period of limitations, although a small improvement over the one-year period involved in Mills, impermissibly limited the opportunity of illegitimate children to obtain support. Most recently, in Clark v. Jeter, 486 U.S. 456, 100 L. Ed. 2d 465, 108 S. Ct. 1910 (1988), the Court struck down a Pennsylvania statute which mandated that paternity suits be brought within six years of an illegitimate child's birth, while not imposing similar ...


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