The recent Nebraska case of Dowding v. Dowding gives us a good opportunity to take a second look at our fairly invariable support for equal parenting. This blog has always recognized that there are plenty of instances in which equal – or even shared – parenting either cannot work or isn’t in a child’s interests. Serious child abuse is one example, parental unfitness is another and significant geographic separation of the parents is another. None of those is present in Dowding and yet the court’s decision to grant primary custody to the father isn’t clearly wrong. Neither is it clearly right.
Timothy and Cameo Dowding were married for about three years, but had an ongoing relationship well before that. They had a son, Treton, in 2010, but separated in 2016. Because they weren’t married at the time Treton was born, they both signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity to establish Timothy as his father.
So it was altogether strange that, when their divorce pleadings were filed, Cameo alleged that Timothy wasn’t Treton’s dad and demanded genetic testing. The court refused the request because, under Nebraska law and the circumstances of the case, the only way to rescind an Acknowledgement of Paternity is to produce evidence that it was brought about by “fraud, duress or material mistake of fact.”