Under CA law, a child born to a married woman living with her husband is presumed to be a child of a marriage.
The presumption of legitimacy may be rebutted only by the husband or wife, and then only in limited circumstances.
The presumption may be rebutted by blood tests only if done within the first 2 years of life upon request by the natural father or married father.
Carole and Gerald were married. Carole cheated on Gerald with Michael who got her pregnant.
Carole was sort of loose and hooked up with a few men over the course of the next few years while her child Victoria was growing up.
Eventually Carole settled down and moved back in with her Gerald.
Michael sued for visitation rights for Victoria; Gerald and Carole opposed.
Superior Court granted summary judgment, dismissed Michael's claim.
SCOTUS affirmed, dismissed Michael's claim.
Does the CA law violate the Due Process Clause by denying a possible biological father the chance to establish his paternity of a child after two years have passed since the child's birth?
A possible biological father does not have a fundamental right to obtain parental rights after the presumptive father has exercised significant responsibility over the child.
Defining the scope of the DPC is difficult and needs limits.
To limit and guide the interpretation of the DPC, the interest that is claimed to be fundamental must be one that is traditionally protected by our society.
"So rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental."
The tradition here is that our nation respects the relationship within the unitary family.
Specifically, our traditions have protected the marital family against the sort of claim that Michael asserts.
The presumption of legitimacy was a fundamental principle of the common law.
There is no precedent about addressing specifically the power of the natural father to assert parental rights over a child born into a woman's existing marriage with another man.
Michael must prove that our society has traditionally afforded natural fathers parental rights or at least not traditionally denied them when the child is born into an established family.
Thus, it is irrelevant that the present law in a number of states appears to allow the natural father the theoretical power to rebut the marital presumption.
What counts is whether the states in fact award substantive parental rights to the natural father conceived within an existing marital union.
We are not aware of any case that has done so.
It is important that the scope of the right be properly constrained. Any right can be fundamental at a general level.
The scope of the right examined should be the most specific level at which a relevant tradition protecting, or denying protection to, the asserted right can be identified.
Here, to provide protection to an adulterous natural father is to deny protection to a marital father.
The majority is worried about the scope of the DPC and uses tradition. Tradition, however, is as malleable and elusive as the "liberty" referred to in the DPC.
Even if we did agree that tradition is appropriate to find fundamental rights, we would still be forced to identify the point at which a tradition becomes firm enough to be relevant to our definition of liberty and the moment at which it becomes too obsolete to be relevant any longer.
This tradition approach is found nowhere in precedent.
The majority's scope is too narrow, should look at parenthood as an interest.
The original reason for the presumption was uncertainty of paternity; in today's society, there is no more uncertainty as blood tests can prove conclusively who is a child's father.
The majority acts as if the only purpose of the DPC is to confirm the importance of interests already protected by a majority of the states.
Our 4 precedents in this area provide a theme: although an unwed father's biological link to his child does not, in and of itself, guarantee him a constitutional stake in his relationship with the child, such a link combined with a substantial parent child relationship will do so.
Michael had such a relationship with Victoria.
The right to custody of one's children is in question.