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Dismissing a Paternity Action in Arizona

Posted on : March 2, 2017, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Dismissing a Paternity Action in Arizona

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.

Case Facts

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.

Dismissing a Paternity Action in Arizona.

Dismissing a Paternity Action in Arizona.

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.

Disposition

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.

Jennifer, thank you for being my attorney. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of my family court hearing. Everything you have done for me throughout this case reflects in the final ruling of the judge. You helped me keep my head together and taught me a lot about myself as a person. I learned so much about my life from observing and listening to you. I will take all the advice you gave me to continue taking responsibility for my choices, continue to put the kids' needs first, and always stay truthful. Your diligence, dedication, and persistence in my case made what seemed impossible, possible. You are a wonderful person and an amazing attorney and I am stronger and more confident because of you.
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