State v. Torrez

In State v. Torrez, 154 Ariz. 522, 744 P.2d 434 (App. 1987), the state initiated a paternity action in its name under a free program to benefit mothers of any economic means. Id. at 523, 744 P.2d at 435. The father eventually admitted paternity, and the court ordered him to pay past-due and ongoing child support to the mother. Id. The court also ordered the father to reimburse the state its attorney's fees pursuant to former A.R.S. 12-849(E), which authorized a fee award to a party in a paternity suit after considering the parties' respective financial conditions. Id. On appeal, this court vacated the fee award, holding 12-849(E) did not authorize fees for the state when it is a party. Id. at 524, 744 P.2d at 436 ("If the legislature had intended to require the defendant in a paternity case to reimburse the state for the reasonable expenses incurred in bringing the case, it could have so stated."). The court suggested the result would have been different had the mother retained counsel to bring the case. Id. at 524, 744 P.2d at 436. Because she availed herself of the free program, however, the court concluded she had the means to properly litigate, and the fee award was improper. Id. at 524-25, 744 P.2d at 436-37.