- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

Maryland's highest appellate court has ruled that an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court must try again to decide if a former husband should pay child support for twin girls, although he is not their biological father.

The ruling yesterday by the Maryland Court of Appeals stated that court decisions should be "in the best interests of the children."

Stephen Markov claims that, as defined by Maryland's child-support law, he is not the parent of the twins, who turn 14 on Christmas Day, and should no longer have to pay for their support.

The appellate decision, written by Judge Irma S. Raker, criticized the mother, Robin Markov, for not trying to identify and find the biological father, who could be liable for paying child support.

Mrs. Markov must "demonstrate more substantially" that she cannot find the biological father who might have to pay support because the "duty of child support extends to the natural parent of an illegitimate child, but not to a stepparent," the ruling stated, referring to a previous court case.

During proceedings dating back to 1998, court records state that Mrs. Markov was married to Mr. Markov in Baltimore on Valentine's Day in 1986. About two weeks later, she was drunk and cannot remember the address where she had an affair with a man she believed was a student at University of Maryland's Baltimore campus.

Although Mr. Markov had a vasectomy before marriage and knew the girls were not his biological offspring, he accepted and treated the twins as his children, even after separating from Mrs. Markov. He voluntarily paid child support until October 1997.

Because Mr. Markov acted like a father to the twins, Mrs. Markov asserted that he should continue to pay for their support.

"It is his duty," her lawyers claim.

The appellate court directed the Anne Arundel Circuit Court to vacate its March 9, 1998, order, which declared Mr. Markov was not the biological father.

"For purposes of this litigation, paternity is simply not an issue in the present case," Judge Raker wrote, referring to previous cases dating back to a common law ruling by Lord Mansfield in 1777.

Mr. Markov acted like a father for more than 11 years, the Court of Appeals noted.

The appellate decision also vacated the Circuit Court ruling of May 3, 1999, which required Mr. Markov to pay $697.36 monthly for child support to Mrs. Markov.

The Markovs were divorced Dec. 28, 1998 just three days after the twins' 12th birthday. Their marriage had been stormy and they had separated several times before permanently splitting up in March 1997.

In 1992, Mrs. Markov had confessed to having extramarital relations. Until she was told of Mr. Markov's vasectomy, Mrs. Markov claimed she thought he was the twins' biological father because he had "previously fathered a set of twins with a high school girlfriend."

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