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Matzuk v. Price

Court of Appeals of Virginia

June 11, 2019

RYAN MATZUK, S/K/A WALTER RYAN MATZUK
v.
CHRISTINA PRICE AND RYAN BEDELL

          FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HENRICO COUNTY Richard S. Wallerstein, Jr., Judge

          Misty D. Whitehead (Whitehead & Graves, PLLC, on brief), for appellant.

          Taylor B. Stone (Brice E. Lambert, Guardian ad litem for the minor child; Janus & Stone, P.C.; Lambert & Associates, on brief), for appellee Christina Price.

          Michael P. Tittermary (Brice E. Lambert, Guardian ad litem for the minor child; The Witmeyer Law Firm, PLC; Lambert & Associates, on brief), for appellee Ryan Bedell.

          Present: Judges Russell, Malveaux and Senior Judge Clements

          OPINION

          MARY BENNETT MALVEAUX JUDGE.

         Walter Ryan Matzuk appeals a final order of the circuit court granting Christina Price's petition to disestablish his paternity and her petition to establish the paternity of Ryan Bedell. Matzuk argues that the circuit court erred in finding that a material mistake of fact existed with regard to paternity. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Price's son, W.M., was born in April 2012. According to the parties' pleadings, upon the child's birth, Matzuk signed an acknowledgement of paternity in which he affirmed, under oath, that he was the "natural parent of the child."[1]

         In 2017, five years after the child's birth, Price filed two petitions related to the paternity of W.M. On April 3, 2017, Price filed a petition to establish paternity for her son, W.M. The petition alleged that Price "reasonably believe[d]" that W.M. "may be the biological product of a union" between herself and Bedell and that Matzuk's endorsement of the acknowledgement of paternity was an intentional misrepresentation of a material fact under Code § 20-49.1.[2] On September 6, 2017, Price filed a petition to disestablish paternity. The petition moved the circuit court to order genetic testing pursuant to Code § 20-49.3 and Code § 20-49.10.[3] Price specifically asked the court to order genetic testing of herself, Matzuk, Bedell, and W.M., to "disestablish paternity of Matzuk, establish the paternity of Bedell, and enter an [o]rder of [p]arentage."

         The court ordered that Price, Matzuk, Bedell, and W.M. submit to genetic testing.[4] The results, filed with the court on December 13, 2017, established that Bedell could not be excluded as the biological father of W.M.[5]

         On May 29, 2018, at a hearing held on Price's petitions, Price testified that when W.M. was born, she was not aware of the identity of W.M.'s biological father. At that time, she thought that the biological father could have been either Matzuk or Bedell. Prior to W.M.'s birth, Price had told Matzuk that either he or Bedell was W.M.'s biological father. She did not know for certain that Matzuk was not W.M.'s biological father until a genetic test was completed in March 2015. She testified that Matzuk had not wanted to undergo genetic testing regarding W.M.'s paternity.

         Matzuk initially testified that when he signed the birth certificate at the hospital following W.M.'s birth, he was aware that he was not W.M.'s biological father. However, he did acknowledge at the hearing that he had previously testified under oath that when Price informed him that she was pregnant, she had told him that W.M.'s biological father could be either himself or Bedell. He testified that at the time he signed the birth certificate, he "felt that [W.M.] was not mine." When asked if he "felt that, but . . . didn't know that," Matszuk replied, "I don't think that anybody knew that." He then testified that, when he signed the birth certificate, he "knew it in my heart that this was not my child." He acknowledged that he did not "do any kind of scientific research at that moment to find out if [W.M.] was [his] child or not [his] child."

         At the hearing, counsel for Price and Bedell argued that the petition to disestablish paternity should be granted because the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity was the result of a material mistake of fact under Code § 20-49.1. Counsel for Matzuk contended that appellees had not established that ...


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