February 22, 2019
Certification from the Court of Appeals
District, Provo The Honorable Lynn W. Davis No. 174401943
Attorneys:  Troy L. Booher, Julie J. Nelson,
Michael J. Teter, Salt Lake City, Dustin A. Hardy, Orem, for
M. Drake, Salt Lake City, for appellee
JUSTICE PETERSEN authored the opinion of the Court, in which
CHIEF JUSTICE DURRANT, ASSOCIATE CHIEF JUSTICE LEE, JUSTICE
HIMONAS, and JUSTICE PEARCE joined.
Appellant Oscar Castro seeks to establish his paternity of a
child born to Mari Teresa Lemus (Mother), who is married to
another man (Husband). Castro contends that he is the
biological father of the child. But because Mother was
married when the child was born, the Utah Uniform Parentage
Act (UUPA) presumes that her husband is the
child's father. Castro filed a petition in the district
court to rebut this legal presumption. The district court
dismissed Castro's paternity petition, applying court of
appeals' precedent to determine that 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.
On appeal, Castro argues that the court of appeals'
interpretation of the UUPA is incorrect. Alternatively, he
contends that if the UUPA does deny him standing, it is
We conclude that section 78B-15-602 of the UUPA grants
standing to Castro and the other persons and entities listed
in that provision and that subsection 607(1) does not revoke
that standing when the child has a presumed father.
Accordingly, we reverse and remand.
Mother married Husband in 2012. Early in the marriage,
Husband traveled to Mexico to visit his mother, who had
fallen ill. Because he was later unable to return to Utah,
Mother would travel to and from Mexico periodically to be
Mother and Husband separated two years later, and she
returned to Utah while he remained in Mexico. Soon
thereafter, Mother began dating Castro. Their relationship
lasted approximately two years, during which time they
conceived a child.
But in May 2016, Husband returned to Utah and he reconciled
with Mother. The child was born to Mother in December that
same year. Mother and Husband have remained married and
neither spouse has ever initiated divorce proceedings. Mother
and Husband allege that they have fulfilled all parental
roles for the child since birth, and they desire to continue
to do so free from Castro's interference.
But Castro wants to establish himself as the child's
legal father. To do so, Castro filed a petition in the
district court to challenge Husband's presumed paternity;
assert his own parentage; and establish custody, child
support, and parent-time. In response, Mother filed a rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
Relying on the court of appeals' decision in R.P. v.
K.S.W., 2014 UT App 38, 320 P.3d 1084, and its progeny,
Mother argued that subsection 78B-15-607(1) of the UUPA
denies Castro standing to challenge the presumption of
paternity established under subsection 204(1)(a).
In his opposition to Mother's motion to dismiss, Castro
conceded that R.P. v. K.S.W. is binding upon the
district court and limits standing as to who may challenge
the presumption of paternity. But he argued that such a
limitation violates his constitutional rights to procedural
and substantive due process and equal protection.
Following a hearing on the motion to dismiss, the district
court dismissed Castro's paternity petition. Relying on
court of appeals' precedent, the district court
reiterated that the UUPA purposefully subordinates the
judiciary's truth-seeking function to policy concerns
about protecting a marriage from third-party challenges. The
court also concluded that Castro had failed to overcome the
presumption that the UUPA is constitutional.
Castro timely appealed from the district court's final
ruling on the motion to dismiss. The court of appeals
certified the case to this court to review unsettled
constitutional questions regarding the UUPA. We exercise
jurisdiction under Utah Code section 78A-3-102(3)(b).
"We review the grant of a motion to dismiss for
correctness, granting no deference to the decision of the
district court." Hudgens v. Prosper, Inc., 2010
UT 68, ¶ 14, 243 P.3d 1275. A rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim should be granted only
if "assuming the truth of the allegations in the
complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it is clear that
the plaintiff is not entitled to relief." Id.
(citation omitted). "The interpretation and
constitutionality of a statute are questions of law that we
review for correctness." Waite v. Utah Labor
Comm'n, 2017 UT 86, ¶ 5, 416 P.3d 635.
Castro argues that the court of appeals has incorrectly
interpreted the UUPA to deny standing to alleged fathers when
the child is conceived or born during a marriage between the
mother and another man who is legally presumed to be the
child's father. In the alternative, he argues that if we
conclude the UUPA does deny him standing, the statute is
unconstitutional for a number of reasons. Because we agree
with Castro that the UUPA grants standing to alleged fathers
in these circumstances, we do not reach his constitutional
The initial question before us is whether the UUPA grants
standing to biological fathers-termed "alleged
fathers" in the statute-when another man is legally
presumed to be the child's father. Castro argues that the
UUPA clearly grants him standing. Mother argues it clearly
The court of appeals addressed this question in R.P. v.
K.S.W., 2014 UT App 38, 320 P.3d 1084. In R.P.,
a married woman conceived a child during an extramarital
affair. Id. ¶ 2. After she informed the alleged
father of the pregnancy as well as her intent to remain
married, the alleged father filed a petition to establish
paternity. Id. Initially, the mother admitted that
the alleged father was the child's biological father, and
they entered into a stipulated agreement regarding child
support, parent-time, and joint legal custody. Id.
¶¶ 2-3. But when the alleged father later requested
increased parent-time, the mother moved to set aside the
agreement and dismiss the case, arguing, among other things,
that the alleged father lacked standing to challenge the
child's paternity. Id. ¶ 3. The district
court agreed that the alleged father lacked standing and
dismissed the case. Id.
The court of appeals affirmed that ruling. Id.
¶¶ 1, 45. After analyzing the relevant statutory
provisions, it concluded that they were ambiguous as to who
had standing to rebut the presumption of paternity.
Id. ¶¶ 15-17. So the court looked to the
UUPA's legislative history and policy objectives.
Id. ¶¶ 18-26. Ultimately, the court of
appeals concluded the UUPA denied standing to the alleged
father to assert his paternity while the mother's
marriage to the presumed father remained intact. Id.
This is a matter of first impression for this court. We
conclude that the UUPA does grant an alleged father standing
to assert his paternity, even where, as here, the child has a
When interpreting a statute, our primary objective "is
to ascertain the intent of the legislature." Bagley
v. Bagley, 2016 UT 48, ¶ 10, 387 P.3d 1000
(citation omitted). Because "[t]he best evidence of the
legislature's intent is the plain language of the statute
itself," we analyze that first. Id. (alteration
in original) (citation omitted). In doing so, "[w]e read
the plain language of the statute as a whole and interpret
its provisions in harmony with other statutes in the same
chapter and related chapters." Miller v.
Weaver, 2003 UT 12, ¶ 17, 66 P.3d 592. Accordingly,
we begin by looking at the text of the UUPA.
The UUPA governs "determinations of parentage in this
state." Utah Code § 78B-15-103(1).
"'Determination of parentage' means the
establishment of the parent-child relationship,"
id. § 78B-15-102(9), which is "the legal
relationship between a child and a parent of the child,"
id. § 78B-15-102(18). The term
"[p]arent-child relationship" includes "the
mother-child relationship and the father-child
relationship." Id. (internal quotation marks
Establishing the mother-child relationship is usually a
straightforward matter because the mother has given birth to
the child. Id. § 78B-15-201(1)(a)(i)
(establishing a mother-child relationship by "the
woman's having given birth to the child"). But
because this is not the case for the father, Utah law creates
a presumption that a married mother's husband is the
father of the child if the child is born during the marriage.
See id. § 78B-15-204(1)(a). This presumption is
rebuttable. A "[p]resumed father" is defined in the
UUPA as "a man who, by operation of law under [s]ection
78B-15-204, is recognized as the father of a child until
that status is rebutted or confirmed as set forth in this
chapter." Id. § 78B-15-102(20)
(emphasis added) (internal quotation marks omitted).
When no presumption of paternity exists, Utah law recognizes
other pathways to establish paternity. Under the UUPA, the
father-child relationship can be established in a number of
ways, including by a legal declaration of paternity
(declarant father), an adjudication of paternity (adjudicated
father), or adoption. See id. §
Section 602-the UUPA's Standing Provision
The UUPA explicitly identifies the parties with standing to
maintain a proceeding to adjudicate the parentage of a child.
Specifically, Utah Code section 78B-15-602, titled
"Standing to maintain proceeding," provides:
Subject to Part 3, Voluntary Declaration of Paternity Act,
and Sections 78B-15-607 and 78B-15-609, a proceeding to