McGee v. GonyoAnnotate this Case
Pro se defendant Justin Gonyo appealed a family court order adjudicating nonparentage. The child at the center of this matter was born in 2011. Shortly thereafter, the child’s mother and defendant filed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP) form with the Department of Health, Agency of Human Services. Both parties signed the form, which stated that they “voluntarily and without coercion, and of our own free will, hereby acknowledge that we are the biological parents of the child” and understand and accept “the legal rights and responsibilities that come with being a parent,” including rights to custody, visitation, and notice before the child may be adopted. The child’s birth certificate identified mother and defendant as the child’s parents. Mother and defendant separated in 2012. About a year later, in October 2013, the Office of Child Support (OCS) filed a Complaint for Support and Recovery of Debt, together with a “Motion for Genetic Testing Despite Parentage Presumption.” The motion alleged that, despite the presumption of parentage arising from the VAP, there were grounds to believe that defendant was not the biological father based on mother’s affidavit naming another individual as the biological father, and stating that she was already fourteen weeks pregnant when she and defendant got together. The following month, defendant filed a pro se pleading in which he opposed the motion for genetic testing and asked the court “to grant [him] a parentage order of the child.” Defendant acknowledged that he was not the child’s biological father and was aware of this when he signed the VAP, but claimed that there was “nothing wrong” with doing so, and that the time for rescinding it had expired. Defendant followed with a more formal motion to establish parentage in December 2013. In the meantime, the family court granted the motion for genetic testing, which took place in early January 2014. The test excluded defendant as the child’s biological father. Mother later filed a pro se motion to dismiss defendant’s parentage action, and OCS moved to set aside the VAP and to set the matter for a hearing. In February 2014, the family court issued a summary “order of non-parentage” based on the genetic test, dismissed defendant’s parentage action, and ordered the case closed. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded that undisputed facts supported a motion to set aside the acknowledgment of paternity as a fraud on the court, and affirmed the judgment of nonparentage as to defendant on that basis.