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State v. Cook

May 16, 1997

STATE OF WASHINGTON EX REL. MARY RUTH CAMPBELL, RESPONDENT,
v.
DAVID COOK, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of Clark County. Docket No: 73314. Date filed: 08/25/95. Judge signing: Hon. James D. Ladley.

The Publication Status of this Document has been Changed by the Court from Unpublished to Published June 19, 1997.

Authored by J. Robin Hunt. Concurring: Karen G. Seinfeld, Elaine M. Houghton.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hunt

HUNT, J. -- David Cook appeals the trial court's denial of his motion to reopen a 16-year-old judgment declaring him to be the father of D.J.C., who is now approximately 18 years old. *fn1 Cook contends that: (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the original adjudication of paternity in 1981 because the court did not appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent D.J.C. when the case was originally filed; (2) the trial court erred in denying his CR 60 motions as untimely; and (3) the trial court erred in failing to conduct a hearing to determine if his motion to disestablish paternity was in "the best interests of the child." We affirm.

FACTS *fn2

On July 12, 1978, Mary R. Campbell gave birth to a son, D.J.C. On September 28, 1978, Campbell and the State of Washington filed a petition to establish paternity, alleging that Cook was D.J.C.'s biological father. On January 26, 1979, an order requiring blood testing was filed with the trial court. The blood test revealed an 80.73 percent probability that Cook was D.J.C.'s father.

On September 25, 1979, an order of default was entered, declaring Cook to be D.J.C.'s biological father. On June 20, 1980, Cook filed a motion for relief from judgment. While there is no official record of this motion, the trial court eventually set aside the default judgment and set the matter over for a full trial on all issues.

On May 27, 1981, the trial court entered its findings of fact and Conclusions of law. The trial court found that Cook and Campbell had engaged in sexual intercourse from 1975 to 1978, specifically in the months of October and November of 1977, roughly nine months prior to D.J.C.'s birth. The trial court also found that Campbell did not engage in sexual intercourse with any other individual during the months of October and November of 1977. The trial court found that Cook was D.J.C.'s biological father and entered an order of support and adjudication of paternity. Cook did not appeal the order.

In 1985, the State requested the State of Oregon to pursue a collection action against Cook, an Oregon resident, under the provisions of the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA). Cook sought to defeat the collection action by producing an affidavit from Campbell in which she recanted her claim that Cook was D.J.C.'s father. *fn3 In the affidavit, Campbell stated that: (1) she had named Cook as D.J.C.'s father because she wanted Cook to marry her; (2) she had named Cook as D.J.C.'s father because she wanted to be eligible for welfare benefits; and (3) she had engaged in sexual relations with other men in October of 1977.

On June 7, 1994, nine years after production of Campbell's affidavit, Cook moved for an order for relief from judgment under CR 60, seeking to disestablish his paternity of D.J.C. Cook asked the trial court to conduct a show cause hearing to determine whether he should be relieved from the original paternity order, or in the alternative, to grant a new trial.

Because D.J.C. was 15 at the time Cook's motion was filed, a GAL was appointed to represent his interests. The trial court ordered the GAL to investigate the situation and to recommend whether it was in the "best interests of the child" to re-open the paternity action. During the investigation, Campbell told the GAL that she had signed the aforementioned affidavit denying Cook's paternity only because Cook had coerced her into doing so with promises of marriage. Campbell told the GAL that Cook was the only possible father of the child.

In her report filed on September 16, 1994, the GAL strongly recommended that the trial court: (1) deny Cook's request for additional blood testing; (2) reaffirm the determination of Cook as D.J.C.'s biological father; and (3) deny Cook's requests to depose Campbell and D.J.C. The GAL stated that re-opening the paternity action produced risks to D.J.C. that far outweighed the potential benefits for Cook.

The trial court held that under CR 60, Cook had failed to bring the action to vacate the adjudication of paternity within a reasonable time after having gained knowledge of facts that may have supported his assertion that he was not D.J.C.'s father. The trial court also held that allowing Cook to bring an action to disestablish his paternity was not in D.J.C.'s best interests. Thus, the ...


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