Treneka Simmonds v. Connor Perkins

Supreme Court of Florida ____________ No. SC17-1963 ____________ TRENEKA SIMMONDS, et al., Petitioners, vs. CONNOR PERKINS, Respondent. [June 28, 2018] LAWSON, J. Treneka Simmonds seeks review of the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Perkins v. Simmonds, 227 So. 3d 646 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017), on the ground that it expressly and directly conflicts with a decision of this Court and decisions of other district courts on a question of law. We agree with Simmonds that Perkins expressly and directly conflicts with Slowinski v. Sweeney, 64 So. 3d 128 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011), and Tijerino v. Estrella, 843 So. 2d 984 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003), on the question of whether a biological father is entitled to rebut the common law presumption that the mother’s husband is the legal father of a child born to an intact marriage, where the mother or her husband object to allowing such rebuttal. Accordingly, we have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(3), Fla. Const. For the reasons explained below, we hold that the biological father has standing to rebut this presumption, known at common law as the “presumption of legitimacy,” when he has “manifested a substantial and continuing concern” for the welfare of the child, Kendrick v. Everheart, 390 So. 2d 53, 61 (Fla. 1980). We further hold that the presumption is overcome when there is a “clear and compelling reason based primarily on the child’s best interests.” Dep’t of Health & Rehabilitative Servs. v. Privette, 617 So. 2d 305, 309 (Fla. 1993). We, therefore, approve the result reached by the Fourth District in Perkins as well as the reasoning of that decision to the extent it is consistent with this opinion. We disapprove the decisions of the First and Third Districts in Slowinsky and Tijerino. FACTS It is undisputed that the child at the center of this case is the biological daughter of Connor Perkins.1 Perkins and the child’s mother, Simmonds, engaged in a three-year relationship. While that relationship was ongoing, Perkins was never informed that Simmonds was married to the man who now asserts his status as the child’s legal father by virtue of his marriage to Simmonds. That man, 1. A private DNA test has shown a 99.99% probability that Perkins is the child’s biological father. -2- Shaquan Ferguson, met Perkins on several occasions while Simmonds and Perkins were together, and yet Ferguson was never held out to be Simmonds’s husband. At some point, Perkins knew Simmonds was married, but Simmonds told him that she was married for “immigration purposes” only and intended to get a divorce. In the words of the circuit court, when the child was born, Perkins had “no idea that there was an intact marriage.” Perkins was at the hospital for the child’s birth. It is undisputed that Ferguson was not and that Simmonds declined to provide Ferguson’s name to be listed as the child’s father on the birth certificate. Simmonds did, however, give the child Perkins’s last name, and she proceeded to raise the ...

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