Dismissing a Paternity Action in Arizona
Who may bring a paternity action in Arizona? Can a county attorney bring an action asking the court to determine paternity on his own? In Traphagan v. Superior Court, 666 P.2d 76 (1983) the Arizona Supreme Court considered the issue.
Mrs. Traphagan, a single woman, gave birth to a daughter in May 1982. She supports the child without any financial assistance. She did not identify the father on the birth certificate. Mr. Moghadam, an Iranian citizen in this country under religious asylum, claims that he is the father. Mrs. Traphagan denies that he is the father of the child. She argues that the only reason Mr. Moghadam claims to be the father is to seek United States citizenship. Mr. Moghadam has not paid any child support to date.
In June 1982, the Maricopa County Attorney filed a complaint against Mrs. Traphagan. It asked the court to adjudge Mr. Moghadam the child’s father and order him to pay child support. Mr. Moghadam is not a party to the action. Mrs. Traphagan moved to dismiss the complaint. When this was denied, she brought this petition for Special Action.
Paternity Proceedings under ARS 12-856 and 12-2456
The Court resolved two issues presented here in a companion case decided the same day, Sheldrick v. Superior Court, 134 Ariz. 329, 666 P.2d 74 (1983). Those issues were whether A.R.S. § 12-846 or § 12-2456 allow the county attorney to bring an action of this type.
The Arizona Supreme Court determined that the county attorney could not bring an action of this type under A.R.S. § 12-846 or § 12-2456.
Paternity Proceedings under AR 12-843
In this case, the county attorney also relies on a third statute. The statute, A.R.S. § 12-843, provides a list of those who can bring paternity proceedings. This includes the mother, the father, the guardian or best friend, a public welfare official or the county welfare agency.
Here, no person or entity named in this statute brought the action. Therefore, the county attorney was without authority to bring it. The law would not allow a collusive suit by the county attorney against the putative father for and on behalf of him.
The Arizona Supreme Court granted Mrs. Traphagan’s petition for Special Action. It found that the court abused its discretion in failing to dismiss the complaint. It remanded the matter to the trial court for dismissal of the county attorney’s complaint and assessment of costs and expenses.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.
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