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Sheets v. Mead

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

August 25, 2015

LORI LEE SHEETS, Petitioner,
v.
THE HONORABLE KATHLEEN MEAD, Judge of the SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA, in and for the County of MARICOPA, Respondent Judge, BONNY JEAN REYNOLDS, Real Party in Interest

Petition for Special Action from the Superior Court in Maricopa County. No. FC2014-071548. The Honorable Kathleen H. Mead, Judge.

For Petitioner: Keith Berkshire, J. Alexander Dattilo, Berkshire Law Office, PLLC, Phoenix.

For Real Party in Interest: Taylor C. Young, Mandel Young PLC, Phoenix.

Judge Peter B. Swann delivered the opinion of the court, in which Presiding Judge Kent E. Cattani and Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop joined.

OPINION

Page 342

Peter B. Swann, Judge.

[¶1] Petitioner Lori Lee Sheets seeks relief from the superior court's order granting her former partner, Bonny Jean Reynolds, visitation with Sheets' adopted child (" Child" ) under A.R.S. § 25-409(C)(2). We accept special action jurisdiction and grant relief because A.R.S. § 25-409(C)(2) authorizes the court to award visitation to a nonparent only if the child is " born out of wedlock." Child's adoption changed her legal status to that of a child born in wedlock, see A.R.S. § 8-117(A), and the superior court therefore erred by awarding Reynolds visitation.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[¶2] Sheets and Reynolds began a romantic relationship in 2000. In 2009, both women were approved as foster parents to two-year-old Child under an adoption case plan. The parties intended to raise Child together, with both acting as parents to Child, but they agreed that Sheets would be the adoptive parent because at that time same-sex couples were legally prohibited from marrying or adopting children together.

[¶3] Sheets adopted Child in 2010. Soon thereafter, her relationship with Reynolds ended. Reynolds continued to maintain a relationship with Child, but, according to Reynolds, Sheets suddenly and arbitrarily stopped allowing her to see Child in April 2014.

[¶4] Reynolds petitioned the superior court for equal-time visitation under A.R.S. § 25-409(C)(2), Sheets objected, and the matter proceeded to an evidentiary hearing. The superior court awarded substantial visitation to Reynolds, finding that " the Child was born or adopted out of wedlock; the Child's legal parents are not married to each other; and [Reynolds] has a long term in loco parentis relationship with the Child," and that " it is in the Child's best interest to have consistent and continuing visitation with [Reynolds]." The court denied both parties' requests for fees under A.R.S. § 25-324.

[¶5] Sheets filed a motion for new trial, which the court denied. Sheets seeks relief by special action.[1]

JURISDICTION

[¶6] We accept jurisdiction. During the pendency of an appeal, Sheets' parental rights would be impaired, and Child would face a prolonged period of uncertainty concerning her living arrangement. Sheets ...


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