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Paternity Testing Denied When a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is Signed

Posted on : December 6, 2016, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Paternity Testing Denied When a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is Signed

Paternity Testing Denied When a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is Signed

The following is a brief outline of the proceedings of a paternity case. In paternity cases, there are many factors to be considered, including the identity of the father listed on the birth certificate, the relationship of the mother to the father, the name given to the child, the living arrangements of those involved, financial support of the child, etc. In this instance, a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity was executed by both parties in the case.

Choate v. Cochran: A Brief Summary of the Case

Paternity Testing Denied When a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is Signed.

Paternity Testing Denied When a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is Signed.

A baby girl was born to Ms. Cochran (Mother) in February 2012. Mr. Choate (Father) was present at the time of birth. He is listed as the father on the daughter’s birth certificate, and the daughter was given his last name. He was advised by Mother that he was the Father of the child. Mother and Father never married, but were in a relationship for approximately one year prior to the birth and lived together as a family with the daughter afterward with Father providing financial support for the family.

During this time period, Father and Mother executed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. A couple months after moving out with daughter and beginning a  relationship with an old boyfriend, Mother began refusing to allow Father visiting time. Choate sought sole legal decision-making through a Petition for Legal Decision Making, Parenting Time and Child Support.

He also requested in the petition that Mother is drug tested and that her new boyfriend not have access to the daughter. He also filed for Temporary Orders to the same effect. At the hearing for Temporary Orders, Mother claimed that Choate was not the daughter’s biological father.

The court ordered paternity testing and when the test excluded Choate as the biological father, they dismissed his motion. Upon Father’s request for the court to reconsider, the court cited A.R.S. Section 25-812(E), “…identifying the wrong potential father on the acknowledgment is a material mistake of fact” concluding that Mother had the right to untimely withdrawal of her prior acknowledgment of paternity. Father appealed.

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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After interviewing several law firms, I came across Jennifer Shick, and her firm, who I hired to represent me for my Family Court case. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the law and is determined to bring the truth to every issue involved within the case. Throughout my case, Jennifer was prepared meticulously as well as went above and beyond all of my expectations. Even when the other party tried to differ from the truth, lie to the Judge, and turn situations around, Jennifer remained attentive and provided substantial evidence to show the judge the facts as well as the proof to support what was the best interests of my children. Additionally, Jennifer helped me endure many difficult experiences, situations and inspired me to remain positive throughout the entirety of my case. Her kindness, compassion, and professionalism helped me through very difficult times and made the process feel a thousand times lighter on my shoulders. She truly has my children and my best interest at heart and I trust her perspective as well as her honesty on each and every aspect of my case. She lessened the burden on my shoulders and even when I felt like the case was not going to go in my favor, Jennifer was open-minded and reassured me that the Judge would, in fact, see the truth, which he did and the case went in my favor. After nine months of court, everything finally came together. I cannot declare how much Jennifer has been an outstanding attorney. She addressed each and every issue with diligence, she cares about her clients and their families. Jennifer genuinely cares about her clients and her dedication to the details of the case was remarkable. Overall, I am extremely pleased with Jennifer’s services and I am truly thankful that I was so blessed to have her represent my children and me. I highly recommend Jennifer as one of the best attorneys in Arizona and if the situation ever arises, I will definitely have her represent my children and me again.
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Sam Franchimone
Sam Franchimone
22:09 12 Sep 13

Dismissal of Voluntarily Acknowledged Paternity Rights As a Result of Court Ordered Paternity Test

Choate presented three arguments on appeal. First, the trial court erred in ordering a paternity test and then disestablishing his paternity given that his name was listed as the father on the birth certificate and a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity was executed by both parents. The disestablishing of paternity should have been preceded by evidentiary or best interests hearing.

Second, Mother was not entitled to the untimely withdrawal of her Acknowledgement of Paternity on the basis of a mistake of fact as to who the biological father was.

Third, Choate asserts that the court is contradicting previous standards set in the case of In re Marriage of Worceste and is in error in dismissing his paternity case. The Court of Appeals of Arizona agreed with the arguments presented on appeal. According to A.R.S. Section 25-812(D), a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity “is a determination of paternity and has the same force and effect as a superior court judgment.”

The trial court should not have conducted a court-ordered paternity test of the presumed father without first conducting a best interests hearing, pursuant to the law set forth in the case of Ban v. Quigley. Mother intentionally misrepresented the facts to Father under oath (through the execution of the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity) and is, therefore, not entitled to relief under Rule 60(C), which provides relief when mistakes or errors occur in judgment despite a person’s good faith efforts to comply with the rules.

Signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Resulting in a Paternity Test Being Denied.

Signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Resulting in a Paternity Test Being Denied.

As stated in the Worcester case, Mother is simply not in a position to claim extraordinary circumstances of hardship or injustice, having brought the circumstances upon herself.” Even if other items did not call for reconsideration on appeal, the court would look to the summary manner in which Choate’s parental rights were severed.

The untimely change of Choate’s legal status was driven by Mother in connection to visitation refusal when, in fact, the severing of parental rights is governed by law. This situation does not meet any of the qualifications to terminate parental rights.

Worcester again makes it clear that establishing the fact of another man’s paternity is insufficient in and of itself to disestablish paternity. More than the best interests finding would be required in order to terminate Choate’s parental rights. Methods and reasons for justifying the termination of parental rights are outlined in Arizona Statute Section 8-533. None of the reasons justifying such action are alleged in this case.

In Conclusion: The Arizona Court of Appeals Reversed the Trial Court

For the above-stated reasons, the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal of Choate’s Petition for Paternity. On remand, the trial court should proceed with the legal decision-making, parenting time and child support determinations.



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