Rose v. Sonson

Rose v. Sonson, 208 So.3d 136 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016)

This decision deals with the ability of a child born out of wedlock to establish paternity in his putative father's intestate estate.  The result turned on an analysis of the history of paternity proceedings within the probate context. 

Between the petitioner's birth in 1964 and 1986, only the mother of a child born out of wedlock could bring suit to establish paternity.  In 1986, F.S. 742.11 was changed to allow both putative children and fathers to bring suit to establish paternity and at the same time, F.S. 95.11(3)(b) was amended to impose a four year limit, running from the date the child reached the age of majority, to bring such an action.  In 2009, the four year statute of limitations was removed from F.S. 742.11 by way of an amendment to F.S. 732.108(2)(b), expressly eliminating the application of F.S.95.11(3)(b) to paternity adjudications when determining intestate succession in a probate proceeding.

The putative father did not die until 2012.  His daughters filed a petition for administration of their father's intestate estate.  The putative son appeared and claimed to be a surviving son of the decedent and thus a beneficiary of the estate.  The daughters moved to dismiss his counter-petition.  The trial court held, and the Appellate Court affirmed, that that the 2009 amendment to F.S. 742.11 could not revive the petitioner's already extinguished claim, that the 2009 amendment did not apply retroactively, and if it did, that such retroactive application would be a violation of the decedent and the personal representatives' due process rights.  

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