IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF Z.K., A MINOR JUSTIN CHATLEY APPELLANT
NATHAN KEY AND BRANDY KEY APPELLEES
FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04PR-16-530]
HONORABLE XOLLIE DUNCAN, JUDGE.
Lisa-Marie Norris, for appellant.
Adcock-Thomas, for appellees.
W. GRUBER, CHIEF JUDGE.
Chatley appeals from the Benton County Circuit Court's
order denying his request to set aside an adoption. The court
denied Justin's petition based on its determination that
he had failed to provide adequate information to establish
that he had standing. On appeal, he contends that there was
insufficient evidence to support the denial of his petition
and that the adoption violates his right to due process. We
hold the circuit court did not err in concluding that Justin
lacked standing to challenge the adoption, and we affirm its
order denying his petition.
child adopted in this case, ZK, was born on July 6, 2015, to
Dawn and Allen Williams. The Williamses were married when ZK
was conceived. On June 26, 2016, almost a year after ZK's
birth, Dawn and Allen each signed a relinquishment,
termination, and consent to adoption. In Allen's
relinquishment, he specifically stated that he and Dawn were
married "prior to and during the time of
conception" of ZK and that he was ZK's biological
father. On June 29, 2016, Brandy and Nathan Key filed a
petition to adopt ZK. On August 9, 2016, after a favorable
home study had been conducted on the Keys' home, the
circuit court entered an order granting the adoption.
months later, on April 3, 2017, Justin filed a petition to
vacate the final decree of adoption and a supporting brief
claiming that he was ZK's biological father and had
maintained a significant custodial, personal, and financial
relationship with the child when Dawn and ZK lived with
Justin from August 2015 through mid-May 2016. The circuit
court did not rule on the petition for four months, allowing
Justin a reasonable time to establish standing to proceed in
24, 2017, Justin filed an additional brief in support of his
petition and attached the following documents. He filed an
affidavit stating that he and Dawn had an on-and-off
relationship from 2014 through sometime in 2016; Dawn told
him in December 2014 that she was pregnant with his child;
they "broke up" in February 2015; in August 2015,
several weeks after ZK's birth, Dawn moved in with Justin
and he provided financial support; Justin performed a
"home paternity test" on ZK in March 2016; at some
point thereafter, he claims that he unsuccessfully attempted
to register with the Arkansas Putative Father Registry; and
in June 2016, Justin hired an Oklahoma lawyer for
"visitation and custody." He attached the results
from the home paternity test purporting to indicate that he
was the father of ZK. He attached a "Petition for
Judicial Order Determining Paternity, Custody and
Visitation" that had been filed in Oklahoma on September
20, 2016. He also attached an affidavit from his Oklahoma
attorney, stating that Justin had diligently attempted to
provide service information for Dawn but was unable to
discover Dawn's whereabouts in Texas until August 2016,
at which point Dawn was served with Justin's Oklahoma
petition for paternity. The attorney also stated that Justin
did not discover that ZK had been adopted until Dawn filed an
answer in the paternity lawsuit so stating. Finally, Justin
filed the affidavit of his parents, confirming that Justin
and Dawn had a relationship and that Dawn and ZK had lived
with Justin for a period of nine months. Justin did not
produce any evidence that he had registered with the Arkansas
Putative Father Registry or any other putative-father
registry, filed a petition for paternity in any Arkansas
court, or obtained an order from any court establishing his
rights as the father of ZK.
31, 2017, the circuit court denied Justin's petition to
vacate, finding that he had failed to establish standing to
proceed, providing specifically:
1.The Final Decree of Adoption was filed in this matter on
August , 2016.
2.The Court allowed a period of time for the Petitioner to
provide the Court with adequate proof of his good faith
efforts to register as a putative father and to provide
adequate information to establish standing to proceed.
3. The Court has reviewed all information provided by the
Petitioner and has determined that it is not adequate to
establish standing nor is it adequate for the Court to find a
reasonable basis to allow Petitioner to proceed.
reviewing the circuit court's finding that Justin did not
have standing to pursue his petition. Only a person who has a
personal stake in the outcome of a controversy has standing.
Pulaski Cty. v. Ark. Democrat-Gazette, Inc., 371
Ark. 217, 220, 264 S.W.3d 465, 467 (2007). The question of
standing is a matter of law for this court to decide, and the
appellate courts review questions of law de novo. Hinton
v. Bethany Christian Servs., 2015 Ark.App. 301,
at 3, 462 S.W.3d 361, 362. In making a determination
regarding standing, we must interpret several statutes. We
review issues of statutory construction de novo, as it is for
this court to decide what a statute means.
DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Smelser, 375 Ark. 216, 289
S.W.3d 466 (2008). In this regard, we are not bound by the
circuit court's decision; however, in the absence of a
showing that the circuit court erred, its interpretation will
be accepted as correct on appeal. Id. With these
standards in mind, we turn to the arguments presented on
it helpful to first set forth the relevant Arkansas statutes.
Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-9-206 provides in pertinent
part as follows:
(a) Unless consent is not required under § 9-9-207, a
petition to adopt a minor may be granted only if written
consent to a ...