Hermesmann v. Seyer (State of Kansas ex rel. Hermesmann v. Seyer, 847 P.2d 1273 (Kan. 1993))

To me, the opinion of the court implies

A) Single mothers work too many hours for too little pay to raise a family,

B) Fathers are in any state to help, and

C) The state is not.

This seems like a bizarre and cruel ruling. If all three were non-issues, fine, but even in the first world desperate poverty exists. Or do I misread the case?

  • 2
    I'm voting to close because there is no correct answer to this question. However, possible answers would include: because it happened decades ago, because it is only binding in Kansas, because boys having sex with women aren't particularly sympathetic, or because it's such a factual outlier that it has very limited real-world impact.
    – bdb484
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 3:11
  • Opinions about laws are off-topic for Law.SE, but such a question might be okay on the Politics stack exchange. Be sure to read their posting guidelines carefully before asking. Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 3:14
  • 3
    Very similar issues are addressed at law.stackexchange.com/questions/79652/…
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 3:52
  • 4
    You mis-read the case. It doesn't say any of that. It says only that parents, all parents, have a legal duty to support their children so far as their means permit, and that the circumstances of conception do not alter this duty. That idea is not new, and is widely supported. Child support is not contractual, and does not depend on conception being intended. That law could be changed, but is in effect in many different jurisdictions, nor is it new. Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 16:18
  • 2
    This post was closed once as opinion-based by vote, and reopened by a moderator, in my view correctly. The question includes incorrect statements of what the decision implies, and these can be refuted objectively. Objective sources can show that this decision is consistent with many other court rulings on the same issues, which removes it from what are usually thought of as the class of controversial court decisions. No opinion is needed for any of that. One can still have an opinion on whether the ruling is sound public policy. But that is not required to answer the question. Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


Hermesmann v. Seyer (State of Kansas ex rel. Hermesmann v. Seyer, 847 P.2d 1273 (Kan. 1993)) is a case which held that a father could be civilly sued for child support in a case where the father was a minor when the child was conceived, and the mother had been criminally charged with statutory rape, or a similar criminal offense, for having sex with a person under 16 years of age.

The decision does not state, or imply, anything about the relative earnings of mother and father, either in general or in this particular case. It does state that, as a matter of law, both parents are liable for child support, and may be required to repay taxpayer support previously provided.

The Hermesmann decision is not particularity controversial, as it followed a number of previous decisions, which are cited in the opinion.

Hermesmann has been followed in a number of subsequent cases, including DEPT. OF REV., BENNETT v. MILLER, a 1997 case before the Florida District Court of Appeal

The decision quoted with approval In re Paternity of J.L.H., 149 Wis.2d 349, 441 N.W.2d 273 (1989) where the J.L.H court wrote:

We reject appellant's assertion that because he was fifteen years old when he had intercourse with L.H., he was incapable of consent. The assertion rests on the argument that sec. 940.225(4)(a), Stats. 1979, created a rebuttable presumption to that effect. That statute pertains to the guilt of a criminal defendant, not to the civil rights or duties of the victim. Paternity actions are civil proceedings. State ex rel. Lyons v. DeValk, 47 Wis.2d 200, 203, 177 N.W.2d 106, 107 (1970). The presumption created by sec. 940.225(4)(a) does not apply in this proceeding." 149 Wis.2d at 355-57.


If voluntary intercourse results in parenthood, then for purposes of child support, the parenthood is voluntary. This is true even if a fifteen-year old boy's parenthood resulted from a sexual assault upon him within the meaning of the criminal law." 149 Wis.2d at 360.

The Hermesmann court wrote:

The Kansas Parentage Act, K.S.A. 38-1110 et seq., specifically contemplates minors as fathers and makes no exception for minor parents regarding their duty to support and educate their child. K.S.A. 38-1117 provides, in part:

"If a man alleged or presumed to be the father is a minor, the court shall cause notice of the pendency of the proceedings and copies of the pleadings on file to be served upon the parents or guardian of the minor and shall appoint a guardian ad litem who shall be an attorney to represent the minor in the proceedings."


As previously stated, Shane does not contest that he is the biological father of the child. As a father, he has a common-law duty, as well as a statutory duty, to support his minor child. Keller v. Guernsey, 227 Kan. 480, 486, 608 P.2d 896 (1980); Strecker v. Wilkinson, 220 Kan. 292, 298, 552 P.2d 979 (1976); Grimes v. Grimes, 179 Kan. 340, 343, 295 P.2d 646 (1956). This duty applies equally to parents of children born out of wedlock. Huss v. DeMott, 215 Kan. 450, 524 P.2d 743 (1974); Doughty v. Engler, 112 Kan. 583, 585, 211 Pac. 619 (1923).

Under the statutory and common law of this state, Shane owes a duty to support his minor child. K.S.A. 1992 Supp. 21-3503 does not apply to a civil proceeding and cannot serve to relieve Shane of his legal responsibilities towards his child.


This State's interest in requiring minor parents to support their children overrides the State's competing interest in protecting juveniles from improvident acts, even when such acts may include criminal activity on the part of the other parent. Considering the three persons directly involved, Shane, Colleen, and Melanie, the interests of Melanie are superior, as a matter of public policy, to those of either or both of her parents. This minor child, the only truly innocent party, is entitled to support from both her parents regardless of their ages.


... the mother's conduct has no bearing upon the parties' respective obligations to support their child. Other courts have so held. In Weinberg v. Omar E., 106 App. Div.2d 448, 448, 482 N.Y.S.2d 540 (1984), the court held:

[T]he mother's alleged fault or wrongful conduct is irrelevant under section 545 of the Family Court Act [citation omitted]. The primary purpose of a paternity proceeding is to protect the welfare of the illegitimate child and, accordingly, the mother's conduct should have no bearing on the father's duty of support nor upon the manner in which the parents' respective obligations are determined [citation omitted].


Nowhere does the law in this state suggest that the mother's "wrongdoing" can operate as a setoff or bar to a father's liability for child support. Under the facts as presented to this court, the district court properly held that Shane owes a duty of support to Melanie and properly ordered that Shane and Colleen were jointly and severally liable for the monies previously paid by SRS.

  • The tl;dr being: the innocence and interests of the child are held higher than those of the parents. OP seemed mostly concerned with the apparent unfairness to the victimized parent (father) in contrast to the assailant parent, with no particular regard to the child. This is a situation where the child is the greatest concern of the court, essentially because they have even less say and control than the victimized parent. Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 1:13

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