Mikel Johnson filed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity back in 2017. Two years later, Andre Daniels finds out through a DNA test that he is the child’s father, so he files a paternity action. The superior court entered a paternity judgment in Daniels’s favor. Johnson moved to set aside the judgment and petitioned for parenting time, legal decision-making, and child support.
The court set aside Johnson’s voluntary-acknowledgment-based paternity judgment and denied the request for relief. Johnson petitioned for special action relief. Now, the court says it “erred” and grants Mikel Johnson paternity despite the fact that the DNA test shows that Andre Daniels is the biological father. To top that off, the court granted the wannabe Dad child support against the child’s biological Dad.
“We previously accepted jurisdiction and granted relief by order, with a decision to follow. This is that decision. The superior court properly recognized that Johnson’s voluntary acknowledgment constituted a judgment of paternity and that Daniels’s paternity judgment could not stand unless Johnson’s paternity judgment was set aside. The court erred, however, by setting aside Johnson’s paternity judgment without a cognizable basis under A.R.S. § 25-812(E). Under that provision, a paternity judgment based on a voluntary acknowledgment can be challenged “only on the basis of fraud, duress or material mistake of fact,” and only for a period of six months; after that time, it can be attacked only in exceptional circumstances, such as fraud on the court. A.R.S. § 25-812(E); Ariz. R. Fam. Law P. 85(c)(1), (d). Applying the plain language of A.R.S. § 25-812(E) and Rule 85 (which is expressly incorporated into the statute), we hold that these time limitations apply even to a genetic father’s paternity petition challenging a voluntary acknowledgment signed by someone else. Accordingly, and because Daniels offered no timely, cognizable ground under § 25-812(E) to set aside Johnson’s paternity judgment, we accept jurisdiction and grant relief by vacating Daniels’s paternity judgment and reinstating Johnson’s paternity judgment. We similarly reinstate Johnson’s petition to establish parenting time, legal decision-making, and child support, which the superior court has not yet addressed on the merits.”
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