R.P. v. K.S.W.

Decision Date21 February 2014
Docket NumberNo. 20120559–CA.,20120559–CA.
Citation320 P.3d 1084,754 Utah Adv. Rep. 41
PartiesR.P., Petitioner and Appellant, v. K.S.W., Respondent and Appellee. D.R.W., Third-party Respondent and Appellee.
CourtUtah Court of Appeals


Terry R. Spencer, for Appellant.

Diana J. Huntsman and Jason H. Fuller, for Appellees.

Judge CAROLYN B. McHUGH authored this Opinion, in which Judge J. FREDERIC VOROS JR. and Senior Judge JUDITH M. BILLINGS concurred.1

McHUGH, Judge:

¶ 1 R.P., an alleged biological father, appeals from the district court's dismissal of his petition to establish paternity under the Utah Uniform Parentage Act (the UUPA). SeeUtah Code Ann. §§ 78B–15–101 to –902 (LexisNexis 2012).2 We affirm.


¶ 2 While married to D.R.W. (Husband), K.S.W. (Wife) had an affair with R.P. and became pregnant. Wife informed R.P. of the pregnancy as well as her intention to stay married to Husband. In April 2010, prior to the child's birth, R.P. served Wife with a petition to establish paternity. Wife responded with an answer and counterpetition, admitting that R.P. was the biological father and requesting a decree of paternity and an order regarding child support, parent time, and joint legal custody. Husband was not joined as a party to the proceedings at that time.

¶ 3 Wife and R.P. entered a mediated settlement agreement and filed a stipulation with the district court on January 27, 2011 (the Agreement). The parties dispute the extent to which Husband, Wife, and R.P. are bound by the Agreement and abided by its terms. Around the time of the child's first birthday, R.P. requested increased parent time pursuant to statute and as outlined in the Agreement. Shortly thereafter, Wife filed a motion to set aside the Agreement and a motion to dismiss the petition for paternity for lack of standing or failure to name an indispensable party, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment based on declarations from Husband and Wife. The domestic relations commissioner recommended denial of Wife's motion to set aside the Agreement and motion to dismiss and ordered that Husband be joined as a party. Husband joined the proceedings as a third-party respondent, and together with Wife filed an objection to the commissioner's recommendation and a request for a de novo evidentiary hearing. Wife then filed a voluntary withdrawal of her counterpetition. The district court held a hearing on the objections, overturned the commissioner's recommendation, accepted Wife's voluntary dismissal of her counterpetition, and granted the motion to dismiss based on its conclusion that R.P. lacked standing to challenge the child's paternity. R.P. unsuccessfully sought relief from these decisions under rules 60(b) and 59(a) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. R.P. filed a timely appeal of the order of dismissal and the order denying the rule 60(b) and 59(a) motions. On appeal, all parties treat the district court's ruling as a ruling on a motion for summary judgment.


¶ 4 R.P. raises multiple issues on appeal, but the question of whether R.P. had standing to challenge the paternity of Husband, the presumed father under the UUPA, seeUtah Code Ann. § 78B–15–204(1)(a), is determinative. The issue of whether a party has standing is primarily a question of law, which we review for correctness. Washington County Water Conservancy Dist. v. Morgan, 2003 UT 58, ¶ 18, 82 P.3d 1125;Pearson v. Pearson (Pearson I), 2006 UT App 128, ¶ 12, 134 P.3d 173,aff'd,2008 UT 24, 182 P.3d 353.3


¶ 5 R.P. contends that the district court erred by ruling that under the statute, he lacks standing to challenge the presumption of paternity enjoyed by the husband of a married woman.4 Husband and Wife assert that the district court correctly ruled that R.P. lacks standing under the UUPA. Although both parties agree that the UUPA addresses the issue of standing, R.P. assumes that the UUPA should be supplemented by the common law, which he contends affords him standing. Husband and Wife take a contrary view of the conclusions to be drawn under a common law approach.

¶ 6 We begin our analysis with an examination of Utah law regarding the presumption of paternity for children born into a marriage. First, we address the common law treatment of this issue, and second, we consider the statutory framework adopted by the Utah Legislature. Next, we determine the extent to which the Utah Legislature has preempted the common law through its adoption of the UUPA. We then turn to the effect of Wife's counterpetition.

¶ 7 Ultimately, we conclude that the UUPA has preempted the common law on the issue of who has standing to challenge a presumed father's paternity. We also conclude that the UUPA limits standing here to Husband and Wife. Thus, the district court properly dismissed R.P.'s petition. Although constitutional considerations might require further analysis in cases such as this—where the alleged father has an established relationship with the child—R.P. has not raised a constitutional challenge in the district court or on appeal. Accordingly, we leave for another day the issue of the constitutional implications of the UUPA's standing limitations where the alleged father has an established relationship with the child. We also conclude that because R.P. did not challenge the district court's acceptance of Wife's voluntary dismissal of her counterpetition, he has waived his right to proceed under it.

I. Standing to Challenge Paternity Under Utah's Common Law

¶ 8 Utah courts have traditionally addressed the issue of a party's standing to challenge a presumed father's paternity under a common law test first announced in In re J.W.F. (Schoolcraft), 799 P.2d 710 (Utah 1990). There, a wife became pregnant with another man's child. See id. at 712. After the child was born, the wife and the biological father abandoned the child and the juvenile court granted custody of the child to the Division of Family Services. Id. The husband, who at that point was living apart from the wife, learned about the pregnancy when the child was approximately nine months old. Id. The husband filed a petition for custody of the child, alleging that he was the presumed father because he was married to the wife and living with her at the time the child was conceived. Id. The guardian ad litem (GAL) responded with a petition seeking a determination that the husband had no legal right to parent the child. Id. After a hearing on the matter, the juvenile court found that the husband was not the biological father of the child and concluded that he lacked standing to assert that it was in the child's best interest to grant him custody. Id. After this court affirmed the juvenile court's decision, the Utah Supreme Court granted the husband's petition for certiorari review. Id.

¶ 9 The supreme court first considered whether the GAL was properly permitted to challenge the presumption that a child born during a marriage is the husband's natural child. Id. The court ruled that, “as a general matter, the class of persons permitted to challenge the presumption of paternity should be limited,” but when determining who should be included in that class, “a paramount consideration should be preserving the stability of the marriage and protecting children from disruptive and unnecessary attacks upon their paternity.” Id. at 713. Thus, the supreme court instructed that standing to challenge paternity should not be determined solely on legal status, but on a case-by-case analysis of whether the considerations of marital stability and protection of the child would be undermined by permitting the challenge. Id. Because the stability of the marriage in Schoolcraft “was shaken long ago” and the husband and wife's marriage was “one in name only,” the supreme court determined that the first consideration in allowing challenges to the presumption of paternity—preserving the stability of the marriage—was not at issue. Id. The supreme court reached a similar conclusion with respect to the interest of protecting the child from attacks on his legitimacy, explaining that the child's “expectations as to who his father is cannot be shaken by permitting a challenge to the presumption of legitimacy,” because [t]he child has never had a relationship” with the husband, the biological father, or even the wife. Id. As a result, the court held that the GAL had standing to challenge the husband's paternity. Id.

¶ 10 In 1990, when the Utah Supreme Court decided Schoolcraft, the controlling legislation in this area was the Uniform Act on Paternity. SeeUtah Code Ann. §§ 78–45a–1 to –7 (Michie 1990). The Uniform Act on Paternity stated that paternity could “be determined upon the petition of the mother, child, putative father, or the public authority chargeable by law with the support of the child.” Id. § 78–45a–2 (Michie 1990).5 The Schoolcraft court did not address the statute, which expressly authorized the child to petition for a paternity determination. See id. Although the Schoolcraft court ultimately allowed the child, through the GAL, to challenge the husband's paternity, the court's analysis suggests that the Schoolcraft test was to be a common law refinement of statutory standing. See Schoolcraft, 799 P.2d at 713;see also, e.g., Pearson v. Pearson (Pearson II), 2008 UT 24, ¶ 32, 182 P.3d 353 (denying standing under Schoolcraft to an alleged father); Balentine v. Gehring, 2007 UT App 226, ¶¶ 9, 13, 164 P.3d 1269 (concluding that the Uniform Act on Paternity “provide[d] that the [alleged] father may petition for a paternity determination but remanding for consideration of the Schoolcraft factors).

¶ 11 Based on Schoolcraft, R.P. argues that he should be permitted to challenge the presumption that Husband is the biological father of the child born to Wife. In particular, he asserts that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the issue of standing because genuine issues of material fact were in dispute with...

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18 cases
  • Siebach v. Brigham Young Univ.
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
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    ...with prejudice. “The issue of whether a party has standing is primarily a question of law, which we review for correctness.” R.P. v. K.S.W.,2014 UT App 38, ¶ 4, 320 P.3d 1084. When we evaluate standing at the motion-to-dismiss stage, we must treat the allegations contained in the plaintiffs......
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    ...Castro has no standing under the UUPA because the child was born during a marriage with a presumed father. See generally R.P. v. K.S.W. , 2014 UT App 38, 320 P.3d 1084.¶2 On appeal, Castro argues that the court of appeals’ interpretation of the UUPA is incorrect. Alternatively, he contends ......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Utah Law Developments
    • United States
    • Utah State Bar Utah Bar Journal No. 33-2, April 2020
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    ...a child conceived during a period of separation between the child’s mother and the presumed father. Under R.P. v. K.S.W., 2014 UT App 38, 320 P.3d 1084, such a challenge could only be raised by the presumed father or the child’s mother. The Castro court unanimously overruled R.P., holding i......

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