A Nebraska man who says he initially was unaware he was a child's biological parent and who later went to court to gain custody lost that battle Friday in the Nebraska Supreme Court.
The court sided with the child's mother, who at first had told Bryan Murdoch that he was not the father.
Murdoch, 46, of Union, argued that he was deceived into inaction for years because the mother, called Anne B. in the ruling, had lied to him. As a result, he missed the four-year deadline for filing a claim under the statute of limitations.
Cass County District Court Judge David K. Arterburn had ruled that Murdoch did not have a valid custody claim, rejecting Murdoch's argument that the statute of limitations was unconstitutional. The high court agreed.
"(T)he state certainly has a legitimate interest in protecting children from being removed from their homes and stability after an extended period has passed," Justice John Wright wrote in Friday's opinion.
The court rejected Murdoch's claim that the limit discriminates against fathers, saying it has been applied to both men and women over the years.
Murdoch and the child's mother engaged in an extramarital affair during 2003 and 2004. The child was born in 2004 and has been raised by the woman and her husband.
In 2012 Murdoch and the woman resumed their extramarital affair and he discovered that the child was his. Murdoch requested a DNA test, which revealed a 99.9 percent likelihood that he is the child's biological father.
In his paternity suit Murdoch argued that the statute of limitations should not apply because he was deliberately misled.
But Arterburn said Murdoch was to blame for not acting to exercise his rights within the four-year period. He ruled that Murdoch should have known that it was impossible for the child's mother to know with certainty who the father was, because she also was having sexual relations with her husband.
Murdoch and the woman both continue to be married to their spouses, despite the past affairs.
Murdoch was disappointed with Friday's ruling.
"It's a terrible decision, because they don't talk about the fact that the woman testified that she told me it wasn't mine, to make me go away," Murdoch said.
The woman's attorney was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.
Murdoch said he plans to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
His attorney, John Kinney, said the ruling means people need to investigate thoroughly and promptly if they want to protect their parental rights.
"If your paramour is pregnant and looks you in the eye and tells you the child is not yours," he said, "you pretty much better assume that statement comes with a wink and nudge."
Contact the writer: 402-444-1304, firstname.lastname@example.org