Lexis Nexis - Case Brief

Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Law School Case Brief

Soos v. Superior Court - 182 Ariz. 470, 897 P.2d 1356 (Ct. App. 1994)

Rule:

A parent's right to the custody and control of one's child is a fundamental interest guaranteed by the United States and Arizona Constitutions. The strict scrutiny test is applied to statutes that involve a suspect class or impinge on a fundamental right. 

Facts:

A couple wanted children but was unable to have children because of a partial hysterectomy. They entered into a surrogate parentage contract with Debra Ballas (the Surrogate"). The wife’s eggs were removed and fertilized in vitro (in a test tube) by sperm obtained from the husband. Pursuant to a Host Uterus Program at the Arizona Institute of Reproductive Medicine, the fertilized eggs were implanted in the Surrogate. The Surrogate became pregnant with triplets.  During the pregnancy, the wife filed to dissolve the marriage. The father responded that he was the biological father and that, pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-218 (1991), the surrogate was the legal mother. The children were born and an order was entered naming the father the natural father. He took custody of the triplets. The wife attacked the constitutionality of Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-218(B) (1991), which allowed a man to rebut the presumption of legal paternity by proving "fatherhood" but did not provide the same opportunity for a woman. The trial court agreed with the mother. The father filed a petition for special action.

Issue:

Was the statute  Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-218, which allowed a man to rebut the presumption of legal paternity by proving "fatherhood" but did not provide the same opportunity for a woman, violative of the Equal Protection Clause because it provided dissimilar treatment for men and women who were similarly situated?  

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court accepted jurisdiction and denied the father's requested relief, finding that the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States and Arizona Constitutions because a parent's right to the custody and control of one's child is a protected fundamental interest. Therefore, although a gender-based distinction was at issue, the statute was tested against a strict scrutiny analysis; this test is applied to statutes that involve a suspect class or impinge on a fundamental right. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-218(C) allowed a man to rebut the presumption of legal paternity but did not provide the same opportunity for a woman. By providing dissimilar treatment for men and women who are similarly situated, the Arizona statute violated the Equal Protection Clause. The State did not show any compelling interest.

Access the full text case Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.
Be Sure You're Prepared for Class