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Mackley v. Openshaw

Supreme Court of Utah

December 19, 2019

Adam Mackley, Appellant,
v.
Adrienne Openshaw, Appellee. Colton Barney, Appellee,
v.
Adam Mackley and Adrienne Barney,

          Heard February 22, 2019

          On Certification from the Court of Appeals

         Fourth District, Provo The Honorable Darold J. McDade Nos. 114402136 and 134400322

          Julie J. Nelson, Eric G. Maxfield, Timothy M. Bagshaw, Salt Lake City, for appellant Adam Mackley

          Lorie D. Fowlke, Provo, Sara Pfrommer, North Salt Lake, for appellee Adrienne Openshaw

          Ron D. Wilkinson, Orem, for appellee Colton Barney

          Justice Petersen authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Himonas, and Judge Harris joined.

          Having recused himself, Justice Pearce does not participate herein; Court of Appeals Judge Ryan M. Harris sat.

          OPINION

          Petersen Justice.

         INTRODUCTION

         ¶1 Adam Mackley conceived a child with Adrienne Openshaw (Mother) while she was married to Colton Barney (Husband). Before the child's birth, Mackley filed a paternity petition in the district court. Genetic testing, conducted after the child's birth, established that the child was Mackley's biological daughter. Husband later signed a voluntary denial of paternity, renouncing his paternity of the child. Despite this, Mother subsequently moved to dismiss Mackley's petition, arguing that he lacked standing under the Utah Uniform Parentage Act (UUPA) to challenge Husband's presumed paternity. Husband simultaneously commenced a separate action, petitioning the district court to declare him to be the child's legal father. After extensive litigation in both cases, the district court permitted Husband to rescind the denial on the basis of mutual and unilateral mistake of fact. The court later granted Husband's petition for declaratory judgment, which ultimately resulted in the dismissal of Mackley's petition.

         ¶2 We are asked to determine, among other issues, whether the district court erred (1) in allowing rescission of the denial and (2) in holding that Mackley lacked standing to challenge Husband's presumed paternity of the child.[2]

         ¶3 We conclude that Husband should not have been permitted to rescind the denial because any mistake went to the legal consequences of signing the document, not the facts forming the basis of it. The issue of Mackley's standing is therefore moot. We reverse and remand.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶4 Mother and Husband married in August 2010. In early 2011, Mother had a sexual relationship with Mackley and became pregnant. Before learning of the pregnancy, Mother told Husband about her relationship with Mackley and the couple separated. Although Mother moved out of the marital home, the couple remained married. When Mother subsequently discovered that she was pregnant, she and Husband knew there was a possibility that Mackley was the child's biological father. Despite this, the couple reconciled and worked to mend the marriage.

         ¶5 After learning of the pregnancy, Mackley began paying prenatal child support to Mother. And he filed a paternity petition in district court before the child was born. Mackley did not name or serve Husband as a party in that case.

         ¶6 In her answer, Mother asked the district court to dismiss Mackley's petition, stating that she was "not sure who the father is and [did] not remember telling [Mackley] that [the child] was his." Mother then asked the court to allow her and Husband to start their family, declaring that Husband "kn[ew] the whole situation and want[ed] to take full responsibility of the child regardless of DNA." But she noted that Mackley could take the legal steps to get a paternity test if he wanted and that they would "go from there" if he elected to do so.

         ¶7 The child was born in October 2011. Although present at the birth, Husband was not listed on the child's birth certificate.

         ¶8 After the child was born, Mackley requested that a paternity test be conducted. Mother submitted herself and the child to genetic testing. The test results established a 99.99 percent probability that the child is Mackley's biological daughter.

         ¶9 Soon after, Mother and Mackley stipulated to temporary orders addressing, among other things, custody, parent-time, and child support. Mackley began to exercise parent-time in December 2011. But increasing conflicts between Mother and Mackley over parent-time and the child's medical care soon strained the relationship.

         ¶10 As part of the original stipulated temporary orders, Mother had agreed to add Mackley as the father on the child's birth certificate. After some delay, Mackley repeatedly threatened to initiate court proceedings against her if she did not comply with the order. Mother eventually agreed to complete the necessary paperwork. Mackley completed and signed the applicable portion of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (declaration).[3] See Utah Code § 78B-15-302. He gave it to Mother, who took it with her to the Utah County Health Department. Husband accompanied Mother to provide emotional support.

         ¶11 At the health department, Mother signed the relevant portion of the declaration, in which she affirmed that "[Mackley] is the biological father of th[e] child" and that she was voluntarily providing the information "to formally declare the paternity of their child without obtaining a court order." In addition, Mother affirmed that she "ha[d] been provided verbal and written ...


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