BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) A complex paternity case that raises questions about how Louisiana defines families is moving from the courtroom to the Legislature.
A Baton Rouge lawmaker has filed a bill to help a New Orleans man fighting to be recognized as the father of his former girlfriend’s child.
House Bill 559 by Rep. Edward “Ted” James of Baton Rouge would make it more difficult for a man listed as “father” on a child’s birth certificate to have his paternity challenged later.
At present, the law allows a so-called “acknowledgment of paternity” to be voided if an unmarried man is not the biological father of the child. While that helps men avoid being forced to support children they have not sired, it works against Terry Hightower, the man James is trying to help.
Hightower broke up with his girlfriend of at least six years in January 2017 and has been trying ever since to maintain a relationship with the son she gave birth to in October 2016.
The child was conceived via a sperm donor and in vitro fertilization. Hightower is infertile; the former couple selected the donor together and had intended to raise him together, according to court documents.
Thus, Hightower was listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate, and the child shares Hightower’s middle name and surname.
But not long after he and the woman broke up, she sued to strip Hightower’s paternity. Hightower struck back; the case is now before the courts.
The Advocate is not naming the woman because she alleges in court filings to have been a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by Hightower. She said the repeated abuse was the reason she took the child and left.
James’ bill would allow Hightower and others in his situation to be stripped of paternity rights only if there is compelling evidence that any acknowledgment of paternity they had made was fraudulent, made under duress or included material errors of fact.