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COA: Twins to remain with guardian, not grandmother

February 18, 2014

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s ruling that twins from northern Indiana may be adopted by their guardian in Bloomington over the objections of the children’s father and paternal grandmother.

In In the Matter of the Adoption of J.L.J. and J.D.J., Minor Children; J.J. and T.H. v. D.E., 53A01-1306-AD-285, father J.J. and grandmother T.H. sought to reverse the Monroe Circuit court order dispensing with father’s consent to the adoption of the twins and denying grandmother’s petitions for guardianship and adoption of the children.

Mother J.S. and father have been in an off-and-on relationship that has produced four children. At one point, mother had four children under the age of 2 in her care. The twins, born in Benton Harbor, Mich., where grandmother and father lived, resided in South Bend with their mother. The mother would leave the twins with different friends and relatives often, including grandmother. Father spent some time incarcerated during the twin’s young lives and never paid child support despite a court order.

A friend of J.S.’ mother, D.E., who had been seeking to adopt for years, learned about mother and her situation and drove from Bloomington to South Bend to visit with the mother. That day J.S. signed a consent form to allow D.E. to become guardian and eventually adopt the children.

Father didn’t contest D.E.’s petition for appointment as guardian and to adopt within 30 days of receiving notice, although later he and his mother challenged the petitions. Grandmother wanted the children placed with her. The trial court ruled in favor of D.E.

The Court of Appeals affirmed on interlocutory appeal. It found sufficient evidence to support the determination that father’s consent was not required based on his knowing failure to provide care and support for the twins, despite an ability to do so. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that grandmother was not entitled to notice of the guardianship proceedings because the twins did not live with her 60 days prior to D.E. filing her petitions, Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children does not apply, as grandmother argued, because the children were considered residents of Indiana, despite being born in Michigan and sometimes living there.

Finally, the COA held it is in the best interests of the children to be adopted by D.E. They are very well-adjusted 2-1/2 year olds, the court found, and they are receiving excellent services.
 

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