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David C. v. Alexis S.

Supreme Court of Arizona

August 2, 2016

David C., Kim C., Appellants,
v.
Alexis S., A.C., Appellees.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable Annielaurie Van Wie, Judge Pro Tem No. JA47249

         Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One 238 Ariz. 174, 358 P.3d 595 (App. 2015)

          Robert D. Rosanelli (argued), Phoenix, Attorney for David C. and Kim C.

          David W. Bell (argued), Higley, Attorney for Alexis S.

          JUSTICE BRUTINEL authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER, JUSTICE TIMMER, and JUSTICE BOLICK joined.

          OPINION

          BRUTINEL, JUSTICE

         ¶1 Petitioners David C. and Kim C, the proposed adoptive parents, seek to reinstate their adoption of A.C., arguing that the failure of Alexis S. ("Father") to timely register as a putative father under A.R.S. § 8-106.01(E) precludes his paternity case and his right to contest the adoption. Because Father timely filed and served a paternity action in compliance with A.R.S. § 8-106(J), we hold that he preserved his right to establish paternity despite his failure to strictly comply with the putative father registration requirement.

         I. BACKGROUND

         ¶2 A.C. was conceived in January 2013. The parents separated two months later and Mother refused further contact with Father. Aware of Mother's pregnancy and wanting to be involved in his child's life, Father unsuccessfully attempted to reestablish contact. Even though she knew the identity of the father-and of his interest in parenting-at the time of A.C.'s birth, Mother signed an affidavit of paternity falsely stating that A.C.'s father was unknown. She also signed a consent to adoption in favor of Petitioners, and A.C. was released into their care.

         ¶3 In accordance with A.R.S. § 8-106.01(H), thirty days after A.C.'s birth Petitioners searched Arizona's putative fathers registry and found no notice of claim of paternity associated with A.C. They filed a petition to adopt A.C. and, beginning on November 25, 2013, published a "John Doe" notice of the pending adoption.

         ¶4 Coincidently, on that same day Father filed a paternity action, having learned of the child's birth and gender. He served Mother two days later, but she never informed Petitioners of the paternity case. Unaware of the pending paternity action, the juvenile court granted A.C.'s adoption by Petitioners.

         ¶5 Father learned of the adoption in February 2014 and immediately amended his paternity petition to include previously unknown information about A.C. (name, place of birth, etc.). Petitioners moved to dismiss the paternity case, and Father moved to set aside the adoption. Paternity testing established Father as A.C.'s biological father. Despite Father having never filed a notice of claim of paternity with the putative fathers registry as required by A.R.S. § 8-106.01, the juvenile court set aside the adoption, concluding that Father had timely filed and served his paternity action. The court found that he was entitled to notice of the adoption proceedings under A.R.S. § 8-111(5) and that the lack of notice violated his right to due process of law.

         ¶6 The court of appeals affirmed. David C. v. Alexis S., 238 Ariz. 174, 179 ¶ 22, 358 P.3d 595, 600 (App. 2015). It reasoned that Father filed and served a paternity action on Mother within two days of the initial John Doe publication and then diligently pursued that case. Id. Accordingly, Father "retained the right to assert his parental rights under § 8-106(G)" even though he failed to register as required by § 8-106.01(A)-(B). Id. The court of appeals distinguished Marco C. v. Sean C, 218 Ariz. 216, 221 ¶ 18, 181 P.3d 1137, 1142 (App. 2008), in which a different panel of the court held that failure to register with the putative fathers registry within thirty days of the child's birth rendered a biological father's consent to his child's adoption unnecessary. David C, 238 Ariz. at 178 ¶¶ 20-21, 358 P.3d at 599. And the court disagreed with Marco C. "insofar as it holds that filing with the putative fathers registry is a necessary precondition in all cases in which a father asserts his parental rights." Id. at 178 ¶ 21, 358 P.3d at 599.

         ¶7 We granted review to consider the interaction between A.R.S. ยงยง 8-106(G) and 8-106.01(E) and to resolve the conflict in the court of appeals' opinions. We have jurisdiction pursuant to article 6, ...


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