Warren County ex rel. Glenn v. Garrelts, 2021-NCCOA-275

Held: 
Reversed and Remanded
  • Facts: Defendant agreed to be a sperm donor for mother. The verbal contract was made and the artificial insemination occurred in Virginia where mother resided. Mother remained in Virginia and gave birth in Virginia in 2011. Mother was the only parent listed on the birth certificate. In 2019, Warren County DSS in NC filed a child support action alleging Defendant was the father. Defendant resided in NC. At the child support hearing, Defendant argued VA law applied, which states a sperm donor does not legally qualify as parent so no child support was owed. DSS argued NC law applies. The district court applied NC law and ordered that Defendant was the father and established current and past due child support. Defendant appealed.
  • Issue: Choice of law between artificial insemination laws of Virginia and North Carolina in determining whether a sperm donor is a parent.
  • The Full Faith and Credit doctrine is inapplicable because there was not an existing order from another state, Virginia. Instead, the court must apply a choice of law analysis because there are multiple states with conflicting substantive laws. Conflict of laws is a legal conclusion that requires a de novo review.
  • Matters affecting substantial rights (e.g., causes of actions and damages) are determined by lex loci, the laws of the situs of the claim – the state where the cause of action accrued. Matters determining procedural rights (e.g., statute of limitations) are determined by lex foci, the law of the forum.
  • Paternity law is substantive requiring the lex loci test because parenthood is a fundamental right that is protected by the legal system. Virginia was the situs of the claim – it was where the verbal contract, artificial insemination, pregnancy, and child’s birth occurred. Virginia is the state where “the last event necessary to make the actor liable” took place. Sl.Op. ¶15. This approach follows Illinois and Kansas decisions and ensures predictable and equitable results and prevents forum-shopping to a state that has the most favorable laws for paternity.
Category:
Civil Cases with Application to Child Welfare
Stage:
Paternity
Topic:
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