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Friday, June 26, 2009

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one more case today

In Adoption of T.B.; W.G. v. D.B. & J.B., a 13-page, 4-1 opinion, Justice Dickson writes:

The question presented is whether the appellant biological father's consent to the adoption of his child was irrevocably implied when he failed to file a motion to contest in the adop-tion court but did take concurrent steps to establish paternity and preserve and assert his parental rights in another court. Upon our consideration of the asserted statutory provisions and the facts of this case, we find that this appellant father's actions did not irrevocably imply his consent, upon which the adoption decree was predicated, and thus reverse the judgment of the trial court. * * *

In sum, we hold that under Indiana Code § 31-19-9-12(1), to be deemed to have implied his irrevocable consent to an adoption, a putative father must fail to file both a paternity action and a motion to contest the adoption. [ILB emphasis] The appellant-father here undisputedly timely filed his paternity action. It is therefore unnecessary to decide whether his timely attempt to contest the adoption, filed in the Circuit Court rather than in the Superior Court where the adoption was pending, satisfied the adoption implied consent statute. The paternity action sufficed to preclude a finding of implied irrevocable consent to the adoption.

Because the trial court's decree of adoption was predicated upon its erroneous determina-tion that the father's consent to the adoption was irrevocably implied by law, we reverse the judgment and remand this matter to the Superior Court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

Sullivan and Rucker, JJ., concur. Boehm, J., concurs with separate opinion.

[Justice Boehm] I concur in the majority opinion. I write separately to observe that these statutes, taken together, seem to provide multiple opportunities for confusion or even intentional obfuscation. * * *

I hope the General Assembly will consider requiring that a putative father wishing to con-test an adoption or declare paternity must file in the court in which an adoption action is pending or otherwise assure consolidation of these two proceedings to reduce the opportunity for delay and confusion, while still preserving all rights of the putative father.

Shepard, C.J., dissents with separate opinion. [some quotes] Holding that a putative father can detail an otherwise lawful adoption by doing just one but not the other, as the Court does today, may help the occasional blunderer, like the inmate in this case.

But it will also provide a very simple roadmap for obstructionists, a tool to use in pre-venting what my colleagues call the “expeditious placement of eligible children.”

In this instance, it prevents the expeditious placement of a child who has known only these adoptive parents during the entire thirty-two months since his birth.

As for where a putative father must object, I find it easy enough to say that he must ob-ject in the court where the adoption is filed. It is true that the statute does not explicitly require that, but neither do the Rules of Trial Procedure adopted by this Court, for example. The Trial Rules do not say explicitly that one must file the answer to a complaint in the same court where the complaint was filed. Likewise, there are other statutes that provide an opportunity for objec-tion, like the chance to object to an appraiser’s report in a condemnation, that do not compel that the objection be filed in the court where the condemnation is pending. I would like to think that in either instance we would hold that a person who filed in another court or another county didn’t get the job done. I would so hold here, saying that the putative father did not timely object to the adoption and that his consent was given by operation of law.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 26, 2009 04:24 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions