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Frank R. v. Mother Goose Adoptions

Supreme Court of Arizona

October 2, 2017

Frank R., Appellant,
Mother Goose Adoptions Appellee.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Pima County The Honorable K.C. Stanford, Judge No. S20140221

         Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division Two 239 Ariz. 184');">239 Ariz. 184 (App. 2016) VACATED IN PART, AFFIRMED IN PART

          Sarah Michele Martin (argued), Tucson, Attorney for Frank R.

          John J. Egbert (argued), Kerry A. Hodges, Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, P.L.C., Phoenix, Attorneys for Mother Goose Adoptions

          Patrick Lacroix, Arizona Children's Law, LLC, Tucson, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae David and Carolyn Price

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



         ¶1 Frank R/s parental rights were terminated because he did not register with the Arizona putative fathers registry as required by A.R.S. § 8-106.01. Failure to register is a statutory ground for severance, and we hold that putative fathers must comply with § 8-106.01 to avoid severance pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-533(B)(6). Because Frank did not register, although he had both opportunity and time to do so, the juvenile court did not err when it severed his parental rights. I. BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In the summer of 2013, Rachel (18) and Frank (21), both California residents, developed an intimate relationship, and in early August learned that Rachel was pregnant. Several weeks later their relationship unraveled, and the couple separated. After their separation and during the early pregnancy, Frank did not provide Rachel with financial or emotional support.

         ¶3 In December 2013, Rachel called the Adoption Network Law Center ("ANLC") to place the expected baby for adoption and gave an advisor Frank's name and home phone number as the likely father. She did not identify any other likely father. In February 2014, Frank told Wendy McGreevy, an attorney at ANLC, "If the baby turns out to be mine, I will 100 percent take the baby and raise it." ANLC subsequently declined to accept the baby for adoption, recognizing that the adoption would likely be contested.

         ¶4 In March 2014, unbeknownst to Frank, Rachel called Mother Goose Adoptions in Arizona seeking to place her unborn child for adoption. Rachel told Mother Goose she had no idea who the child's father was and did not tell Mother Goose about her rejected application with ANLC (leaving an application question blank). Rachel later signed an affidavit falsely stating no man had acknowledged or claimed paternity of the child or had provided or promised to provide her support during the pregnancy, and there was no person she had reason to believe had an interest in the child.

         ¶5 On May 5, Rachel gave birth to E.E. in Maricopa County, with the adoptive mother in attendance. Three days later, Rachel executed a Relinquishment of Parental Rights for Adoption, relinquishing her rights to Mother Goose. The next day, Frank asked Rachel about the baby through Facebook, and Rachel responded that the baby was not his. Frank continued to ask about the baby and wrote, "if [it's] mine, [I'm] going to support the baby." Mother Goose filed a petition for termination of the parent-child relationship and appointment of a guardian for the child on May 14 in Pima County Superior Court.

         ¶6 In that severance petition, Mother Goose alleged that Rachel resided in Arizona at the hotel it had arranged for her while she was in Phoenix. Further alleging that the identity of the child's father was unknown, Mother Goose sought to terminate Rachel's rights pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-533(B)(7) and the rights of any potential father pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-533(B)(5), claiming that no putative father had timely served Rachel with a paternity action after service of notice pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-106(G). That notice, which is required in an adoption under A.R.S. § 8-106, was served by publication in Maricopa County, with the last notice appearing in May 2014. The published notices listed Rachel's address as her Phoenix hotel, instead of her permanent California address, and purported to serve only "John Doe" with no other identifying information.

         ¶7 On July 30, 2014, the juvenile court terminated the parental rights of "John Doe" and Rachel and relinquished jurisdiction to Tennessee, the adoptive parents' home state, pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-1032(A)(2).

         ¶8 Meanwhile, Frank had seen a photograph of E.E. on Facebook and believed the child looked like him. In early July, he filed a petition to establish parental rights in California. Rachel was served with the California petition on July 30, coincidently the same day ...

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