Richard M. v. Patrick M., 040220 AZAPP1, 1 CA-JV 19-0288

Docket Nº:1 CA-JV 19-0288
Opinion Judge:CRUZ, JUDGE
Party Name:RICHARD M., Appellant, v. PATRICK M., JULIE M., M.M., Appellees.
Attorney:The Stavris Law Firm, PLLC, Scottsdale By Christopher Stavris Counsel for Appellant Stuart & Blackwell, PLLC, Chandler By Kristy B. Blackwell, Cory A. Stuart Counsel for Appellees Patrick M. and Julie M.
Judge Panel:Judge Maria Elena Cruz delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop and Judge David B. Gass joined.
Case Date:April 02, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Arizona
 
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RICHARD M., Appellant,

v.

PATRICK M., JULIE M., M.M., Appellees.

No. 1 CA-JV 19-0288

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

April 2, 2020

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. JS519280 The Honorable Cynthia L. Gialketsis, Judge Pro Tempore

The Stavris Law Firm, PLLC, Scottsdale By Christopher Stavris Counsel for Appellant

Stuart & Blackwell, PLLC, Chandler By Kristy B. Blackwell, Cory A. Stuart Counsel for Appellees Patrick M. and Julie M.

Judge Maria Elena Cruz delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop and Judge David B. Gass joined.

OPINION

CRUZ, JUDGE

¶1 Richard M. is a potential and putative father who appeals the court's order terminating his parental rights to minor child M.M. Richard M. argues the court erred and denied him due process when it prohibited him from participating in the best-interests portion of the termination hearing. Because Richard M. failed to initiate paternity proceedings within thirty days of receiving notice of a planned adoption pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 8-106(G), we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 During her pregnancy, Lindsay G. ("Mother") identified Richard M. as the potential father of her unborn baby. On February 20, 2019, a notice pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-106(G) was served on Richard M. informing him that an adoption was planned and if he wished to intervene, he was required to initiate paternity proceedings and serve Mother within thirty days of receiving the notice. Richard M. did not do so.

¶3 On May 1, 2019, Mother gave birth to M.M. The following day, Mother placed M.M. in the care and control of the prospective adoptive parents, Patrick M. and Julie M. (collectively "Appellees"). A few days later, Mother gave Appellees written consent to adopt M.M., relinquishing her parental rights. Mother also waived her rights to notice and appear at all future proceedings concerning M.M.'s adoption.

¶4 Hoping to adopt M.M. in the State of Washington, where they lived, but recognizing Arizona was M.M.'s home state, Appellees petitioned the Maricopa County Superior Court for termination of Richard M.'s potential parental rights.1 The petition alleged Richard M. failed to file a paternity action within thirty days of being served with notice of the adoption, a ground for termination pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-533(B)(5).

¶5 The court scheduled a hearing on the petition and appointed counsel for Richard M. In the meantime, Appellees filed a motion for summary judgment. In response to the motion. Richard M. admitted that he was served with a potential father's notice on February 20, 2019, and that, although he registered with the putative father's registry, he did not file a paternity action within the thirty-day deadline. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees as to the statutory ground for termination and set a hearing to determine whether termination of the potential parent-child relationship was in M.M.'s best interests.

¶6 Richard M. appeared at the time set for the final portion of the termination hearing and asked to participate. Appellees objected, asserting that although Richard M. received notice of the hearing through his appointed counsel, he had no right to appear at the hearing because he had failed to file a paternity action. Richard M. argued that neither A.R.S. § 8-106(J) nor A.R.S. § 8-535(H) explicitly deny him the right to be heard. The court allowed Richard M. to remain in the courtroom but prohibited him from participating by testifying or offering evidence.

¶7 After hearing testimony from Appellees, the court terminated Richard M.'s parental rights and relinquished jurisdiction over the adoption proceedings to the State of Washington to finalize the adoption. Richard M. timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Article 6, Section 9, of the Arizona Constitution and Arizona Rule of Procedure for the Juvenile Court 103(A).

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

¶8 To terminate a parent-child relationship, the court must find, by clear and convincing evidence, at least one of the statutory grounds set forth in A.R.S. § 8-533(B), and by a preponderance of the evidence that termination is in the child's best interests. A.R.S. § 8-533(B); Michael J. v. Ariz. Dept of Econ. Sec., 196 Ariz. 246, 249, ¶ 12 (2000). Failure to file a...

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