Utah’s Uniform Parentage Act (“UUPA”), Utah Code § 78B-15-204

Castro v. Lemus, 2019 UT 71 (Dec. 19, 2019), Hinkle v. Jacobsen, 2019 UT 72 (Dec. 19, 2019), Olguin v. Anderton, 2019 UT 73 (Dec. 19, 2019), Mackley v. Openshaw, 2019 UT 74 (Dec. 19, 2019)

Under Utah’s Uniform Parentage Act (“UUPA”), Utah Code § 78B-15-204(1)(a), a man is presumed to be the father of any child born during the course of his marriage to the child’s mother.  A series of companion cases recently issued by the Utah Supreme Court—Castro v. Lemus, Hinkle v. Jacobsen, Olguin v. Anderton, and Mackley v. Openshaw—dealt with the standing of an alleged father to challenge this presumption and establish his own paternity.

Castro, the lead opinion, reviewed the dismissal of an alleged father’s challenge to the presumed paternity of 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 instead that the UUPA unambiguously grants standing to an alleged father to establish his own paternity, even where the child at issue has a presumed father.

Noting constitutional challenges raised in each of the companion cases, the Castro court observed that any contrary interpretation “raises questions as to the UUPA’s constitutionality.”  Thus, even if the UUPA were ambiguous as to the standing of an alleged father, the canon of constitutional avoidance would demand the same result.