Las Vegas Sun

March 5, 2000

Court won't let man deny fatherhood role

Las Vegas Sun

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A Clark County man cannot deny he's the father of a 9-year-old girl, even though genetic tests show the child was fathered by another man, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled.

The court ruled 3-0 Friday that ending the parental relationship between Gary William Stenlund and the girl now would be detrimental to the child's best interests.

"Gary is the only father that the child has ever known, and although Gary contends that he does not now consider the child his biological daughter, he testified that he is bonded to the child as if he was her biological daughter," the court ruled.

Stenlund sued to end the parental relationship and requested that his former girlfriend, Michele Poliksza, reimburse him for the $250 per month child support he had paid.

Poliksza contacted Stenlund and told him she was pregnant not long after they broke up in 1990.

Stenlund secured joint custody of the child after signing affidavits that he was the father.

Then in 1997 he changed employment and was required to provide his health care provider the girl's medical history, including her blood type.

When Poliksza refused to enroll the child in his medical plan, Stenlund became suspicious of his paternity.

A genetic test in January 1998 concluded he was not the biological father.

A family court threw out Stenlund's lawsuit, but he then appealed to the Supreme Court.

In its decision, the court said Stenlund failed to take opportunities available to him to determine the parentage of the child shortly after she was born.

"Thus, we cannot conclude that Michele's misrepresentations, assuming they were fraudulent, prevented him from contesting paternity in the first instance," the court wrote.

Stenlund has held the girl out as his biological daughter and she has become dependent on that established relationship, the court ruled.

The decision was made by Justices Bill Maupin, Miriam Shearing and Nancy Becker.

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