Thursday, 03 November 2016 11:55

Arizona Supreme Court Sets Aside Adoption When Mother Lied About Identity of Father.

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The Arizona Supreme Court recently ruled that a father who had not established paternity or filed with the putative fathers’ registry could challenge an adoption when he acted quickly and filed a paternity action in Family Court within the notice period for John Doe fathers.
 
To understand this case, you must know the following facts.  Adoptions are in Juvenile Court and paternity and custody matters are in Family Court.  The putative fathers’ registry, though little known, can be very important in severance and adoption matters.  Registering with it ensures that a potential father will get notice of any case in Juvenile Court that will potentially affect his parental rights.  Failure to register with the putative fathers’ registry is a statutory ground for severance of parental rights.
 
The child in this case was conceived by unmarried parents in January, 2013. After the parents separated, the mother refused contact with the father.  Immediately after the child’s birth, the mother signed an affidavit of paternity falsely stating that she did not know the identity of the child’s father.  She also signed a consent to adopt in favor of the petitioners, and placed the child in their care.  Thirty days after the child’s birth, the petitioners searched the Arizona Putative Fathers’ Registry and found nothing. They filed a petition to adopt and, on November 25, 2013, published a John Doe notice of the pending adoption.  On the same day, the father filed his paternity action, knowing only the child’s date of birth and gender. He served the mother two days later, but she never informed the petitioners of the paternity action.  Unaware of the paternity action, the Juvenile Court granted the adoption.  The father learned of the adoption in February, 2014 and immediately amended his petition to include the previously unknown information about the child (name, place of birth, etc.).
 
The petitioners moved to dismiss the paternity case and the father moved to set aside the adoption. Paternity testing established that the father was the child’s biological father.  The trial court set aside the adoption. The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed. 
 
On review by the Arizona Supreme Court, the issue was whether a father who timely files, serves and successfully pursues a paternity action under the family law statutes, but who fails to register as a putative father under the juvenile statutes, is entitled to notice of the adoption hearing or instead waives such notice and his right to contest the adoption.  The Arizona Supreme Court held that a father who timely files a paternity action within 30 days of service by publication and timely serves  that action on the mother is not precluded from establishing paternity and does not waive his right to contest the child’s adoption merely because he failed to file with the putative fathers’ registry.  The Supreme Court placed a strong emphasis on the mother’s deception.
 
The lesson from this case is that fathers should register with the putative fathers’ registry and should file paternity actions as soon as possible if they want to preserve their parental rights when the relationship with the mother has ended.  The potential adoptive parents should do everything they can do to give actual notice to parents of the pending adoption in order to avoid having an adoption be set aside later.
Read 1185 times Last modified on Thursday, 03 November 2016 12:05

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