ILNews

COA: Court lacked personal jurisdiction

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's denial of a biological mother's motion to set aside an adoption decree because the court lacked personal jurisdiction over her and her due process rights were violated.

In In the matter of the adoption of D.C.; H.R. v. R.C., No. 22A01-0709-CV-425, the appellate court ruled the adoptive mother, R.C., did not do everything she could to contact H.R., the biological mother, about R.C.'s petition to adopt D.C. R.C., who married D.C.'s biological father, argued that even though she hadn't complied with Indiana Trial Rules when sending H.R. notice of the adoption proceedings, H.R. is barred from challenging the adoption decree pursuant to Indiana Code Section 31-19-14-4.

The Court of Appeals found that Floyd Circuit Court lacked personal jurisdiction over H.R. in the case because R.C. didn't comply with Indiana Trial Rules, which require a service made to a person through the mail be accompanied by a return receipt showing receipt of the letter. H.R. never received R.C.'s certified mail regarding the adoption proceedings; she didn't find out about the adoption until nearly two years later.

The appellate court also ruled I.C. Section 31-19-14-4 creates an unconstitutional due process violation in this case because the biological mother had the right to make decisions regarding the custody of her child.

The court also questioned whether the Indiana General Assembly anticipated the scenario of this case when they enacted this section of the code because the plain language provides that a person whose parental rights are terminated may not file an untimely challenge to an adoption decree even if the putative father didn't receive notice or if the proceedings were in any other manner defective, wrote Judge Cale Bradford.

The Court of Appeals remanded the matter for a hearing on the merits of R.C.'s adoption petition.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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