KYMBERLY BROOKE RAMIREZ CLARK and DANIEL JOSEPH RAMIREZ, Petitioners,
THE HONORABLE JOSEPH KREAMER, Judge of the SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA, in and for the County of MARICOPA, Respondent Judge, CLARENCE CHAO, Real Party in Interest.
from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. FC2015051018
The Honorable Joseph C. Kreamer, Judge JURISDICTION ACCEPTED;
Berkshire Law Office, PLLC, Keith Berkshire, Erica L.
Gadberry Counsel for Petitioner Ramirez Clark
Shumway PLC, Jonathan D. Brooks Counsel for Petitioner
Artemis Law Firm, PLLC, Michelle J. Roddy Counsel for Real
Party in Interest
Maria Elena Cruz delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Randall M. Howe and Judge Peter B. Swann
Elena Cruz, Judge
Petitioners Kymberly Brooke Ramirez Clark
("Mother") and Daniel Joseph Ramirez
("Ramirez") are respondents in a paternity action
filed by Real Party in Interest Clarence Chao
("Chao"). They seek special action relief from the
superior court's order setting aside a portion of their
consent decree of dissolution ("Decree"), in which
Petitioners untruthfully asserted M.R. was Ramirez'
Special action jurisdiction is appropriate because this
dispute involves a legal question of statewide importance
relating to the best interests of a child. See Ariz.
R. P. Spec. Act. 1(a); Alvarado v. Thomson, 240
Ariz. 12, 14, ¶ 10 (App. 2016). We accordingly accept
special action jurisdiction but deny relief.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 2004, before Mother's marriage to Ramirez, Mother was
involved in sexual relationships with both Ramirez and Chao
and became pregnant with M.R. Upon learning of the pregnancy,
Chao asked Mother whether he was the father. Mother said
Ramirez was the child's biological father, but Chao still
asked Mother to contact him after the child was born to tell
him whether she looked like Chao. Chao identifies as Asian
American with distinct "Asian characteristics" and
Mother identifies as Caucasian.
M.R. was born in February 2005. Mother and Ramirez were
unmarried at the time, and no father was identified on
M.R.'s birth certificate. After M.R.'s birth, Chao
attempted to communicate with Mother, and after some months
he was able to ask her whether M.R. looked like him. Saying
M.R. was "100 percent" Ramirez' and
"doesn't look anything like you at all, "
Mother insisted Chao was not M.R.'s biological father.
Mother and Ramirez married in 2007, two years after
M.R.'s birth, but they divorced in 2012. Ramirez never
adopted M.R., nor did Petitioners ever attempt to modify
M.R.'s birth certificate to identify Ramirez as
M.R.'s father. Therefore, under Arizona law, during the
entirety of Petitioners' marriage M.R. had only one legal
parent. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. ("A.R.S.")
§§ 8-117(A) ("On entry of the decree of
adoption, the relationship of parent and child and all
the legal rights, privileges, duties, obligations and other
legal consequences of the natural relationship of child and
parent thereafter exist between the adopted child and the
adoptive parent as though the child were born to the adoptive
parent in lawful wedlock.") (emphasis added),
25-814(A)(3) ("A man is presumed to be the father of the
child if . . . [a] birth certificate is signed by the mother
and father of a child born out of wedlock."),
partially invalidated on other grounds by McLaughlin v.
Jones, 243 Ariz. 29 (2017). In her petition for
dissolution of marriage, Mother falsely acknowledged
Ramirez' paternity of M.R. Likewise, Ramirez acknowledged
paternity of M.R. in his response. Three months after Mother
filed her petition for dissolution of marriage, the superior
court issued the Decree, which recognized Ramirez as
M.R.'s father, provided him with joint custody, and did
not require him to pay child support.
Mother and Chao did not communicate after Mother told Chao
Ramirez was M.R.'s father. However, in 2014, two years
after Mother and Ramirez divorced, Chao looked at
Mother's social media account and found pictures of M.R.
Chao noted that M.R. resembled him and had "Asian
characteristics" which he described as a flatter face,
lower nose bridge, thick straight jet-black hair, and dark,
almond-shaped eyes with epicanthic folds in the corners.
Within a week or two of seeing M.R.'s pictures on
Mother's social media, Chao emailed Mother to ask again
whether M.R. was his daughter. Mother responded, "Yes, I
do think you are the biological father. When it first
happened I didn't think so, but as she has gotten older
she looks a lot like you." Chao stated he would like to
be part of M.R.'s life and offered to pay for child
support and counseling to properly introduce him to M.R.
Initially, Mother agreed and said she would like M.R. to know
her biological father.
Over the next three months, Mother sent Chao pictures of M.R.
and stated she was willing to allow Chao to meet M.R., but
she said it was too soon at that time. She also admitted,
"I do not think a DNA test is necessary since she looks
just like you." Although Mother initially agreed to
allow M.R. to complete DNA testing, she did not have
M.R.'s DNA tested. Then, three months after first
admitting Chao was M.R.'s biological father, Mother told
Chao it was a ...