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Adoption statute allows for subsequent consents

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The statutes governing adoption and public policy don't prohibit the execution of subsequent adoption consents, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In In the matter of the adoption of A.S., D.S., C.S., and J.S., minor children, by next friend M.L.S., No. 49A02-0901-CV-60, M.L.S. appealed the probate court's ruling denying her petition to adopt A.S., D.S., C.S., and J.S., and the grant of the petitions by V.S. and L.S. to adopt the children. Except for J.S., V.S. and L.S. had been granted consents to adopt the children after consent was already given to M.L.S. When the adoptions were granted, consents had been granted to M.L.S., V.S., and L.S.

M.L.S. argued because her consents granted first weren't withdrawn by the court, they should remain in effect and any other consent is void. But there's no basis in the adoption code for holding that all subsequent consents are void, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. In addition, allowing competing petitions and subsequent consents gives a probate court a choice between two families to decide if placement with one of them is in the child's best interest. It also avoids a race to obtain parental consent and allows biological parents whose rights haven't been terminated yet and the county Department of Child Services to address changing circumstances.

It was changing circumstances that led to consents being granted to V.S. and L.S. to adopt the children. After the parents and Marion County DCS consented to M.L.S. adopting the children, but before a hearing was held, MCDCS received a report that M.L.S.'s three adopted children were inappropriately touching A.S., D.S., C.S., and J.S. This led to them being removed from the home and placed with V.S., and L.S., a mother and adult-daughter who lived together in the same home.

M.L.S. also argued on appeal that the probate court erred by issuing an adoption decree when the previous judge who heard all the evidence died before issuing a final ruling. The appellate court determined M.L.S. waived this argument because there's no indication in the record she objected to the authority of the new judge to issue the final adoption decree based on the evidence.

The appellate court also ruled the adoption decree was adequate. M.L.S. claimed the probate court erroneously adopted the cross-petitioner's proposed findings verbatim and the court erred in finding the criminal matter involving M.L.S.'s son was still open at the time of the decree. Adopting findings verbatim isn't prohibited, wrote Judge Vaidik; the court did err in finding the case against the son remained open at the time of the ruling because it had been dismissed prior to the ruling. This doesn't justify a new trial because other evidence shows the children up for adoption were allegedly abused by other children in the home and placement with V.S. and L.S. was in the children's best interest.

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