In the Matter of Thomas T. (Anonymous), appellant,
Luba R. (Anonymous), et al., respondents. Docket No. P-17987-11
C. Macklin, New Hyde Park, NY, for appellant.
Stewart N. Altman, Mineola, NY, for respondent Luba R.
Salvatore C. Adamo, New York, NY, for respondent Gaston R.
Brandys, New York, NY, attorney for the child.
REINALDO E. RIVERA, J.P., L. PRISCILLA HALL, SHERI S. ROMAN,
VALERIE BRATHWAITE NELSON, JJ.
DECISION & ORDER
by the petitioner from an order of the Family Court, Queens
County (Mary R. O'Donoghue, J.), dated January 11, 2016.
The order, after a hearing, dismissed the petition seeking to
declare the petitioner the father of the subject child.
that the order is affirmed, without costs or disbursements.
petitioner commenced this proceeding pursuant to Family Court
Act article 5 to establish his paternity with respect to the
subject child. After a hearing, the Family Court determined
that the petitioner was equitably estopped from claiming
paternity with respect to the child and thereupon dismissed
the petition. The petitioner appeals.
purpose of equitable estoppel is to prevent someone from
enforcing rights that would work injustice on the person
against whom enforcement is sought and who, while justifiably
relying on the opposing party's actions, has been misled
into a detrimental change of position'" (Matter
of Derrick H. v Martha J., 82 A.D.3d 1236, 1238, quoting
Matter of Shondel J. v Mark D., 7 N.Y.3d 320, 326).
"[T]he doctrine has been used to prevent a biological
father from asserting paternity rights when it would be
detrimental to the child's interests to disrupt the
child's close relationship with another father
figure" (Matter of Juanita A. v Kenneth Mark
N., 15 N.Y.3d 1, 6). "The doctrine in this way
protects the status interests of a child in an already
recognized and operative parent-child relationship"
(Matter of Felix M. v Leonarda R.C., 118 A.D.3d 886,
886 [internal quotation marks omitted]). "[T]he issue
does not involve the equities between the two adults; the
case turns exclusively on the best interests of the
child" (Matter of Shondel J. v Mark D., 7
N.Y.3d at 330). Thus, the doctrine of equitable estoppel will
be applied only where its use furthers the best interests of
the child (see Matter of Charles v Charles, 296
A.D.2d 547, 549).
Family Court properly applied the doctrine of equitable
estoppel to preclude the petitioner from asserting his
paternity claim with respect to the subject child. The
evidence at a hearing established that the respondent Gaston
R. has established a strong father-daughter relationship with
the child. The child has referred to Gaston R. as
"daddy" since she was 18 months old and continues
to view him as the only father figure in her life. In
contrast, the petitioner learned, shortly after the
child's birth, that he was the child's biological
father. Nevertheless, he did not commence the instant
paternity proceeding until the child was four years old. The
petitioner has not had a parent-child relationship with the
child for several years, and the child no longer recognizes
the petitioner's name. Under these circumstances, the
court properly determined that it was in the child's best
interests to equitably estop the petitioner from asserting
his paternity claim (see Matter of Richard A.M. v
Alejandra H., 123 A.D.3d 1129, 1129-1130; Matter of
Rason S.B. v Alexis H., 101 A.D.3d 710, 711; Matter
of Antonio H. v Angelic W., 51 A.D.3d 1022, 1023;
Matter of Greg S. v Keri C., 38 A.D.3d 905, 905).
to the petitioner's contention, this Court's
determination on a prior appeal, which, inter alia,
reinstated his paternity petition, did not preclude the
Family Court from considering the doctrine of equitable
estoppel upon remittal (see Matter of Thomas T. [Luba
R.], 121 A.D.3d 800). Moreover, the petitioner's
contention that application of the doctrine of equitable
estoppel was barred by the doctrine of unclean hands is
without merit (see Matter of Shondel J. v Mark D., 7
N.Y.3d at 330; Matter of Felix O. v Janette M., 89
A.D.3d 1089, 1090).
petitioner's remaining contentions are without merit.
RIVERA, J.P., HALL, ROMAN and ...