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Court reverses interstate surrogate adoption

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The Indiana Supreme Court reversed an adoption order granted to a New Jersey man of twin girls born by a surrogate in Indianapolis, ruling the Indiana trial court failed to comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

In the case In the matter of the adoption of Infants H.; Marion County Division of Indiana Department of Child Services v. Stephen, No. 29S02-0904-CV-140, Stephen filed a petition for adoption of twin girls born in Indianapolis to a woman from South Carolina using donor sperm and eggs. The twins were released to Stephen by the trial court in Hamilton County pending a final hearing and waived the statutory requirement of prior written approval of a licensed placement agency or the Marion County Office of Family and Children, now the Department of Children.

Later, it was discovered that Stephen wasn't a resident of Indiana but was living and working in New Jersey. Stephen initially claimed the twins were biracial and hard to place, but they were not; he later said they were hard to place because they were a sibling group. Adoptions to non-Indiana residents can be approved for statutorily defined "hard to place" children.

The Department of Children became involved in the case when hospital workers called the organization after Stephen visited the hospital with a pet bird and had bird feces on his coat and seemed unconcerned about potential health risks. Marion Superior Court ordered the twins as children in need of services and placed them in the custody of DCS. It was after the CHINS investigation that Stephen claimed the twins were hard to place.

The trial court ordered at a final hearing a six-month period of supervision of the placement of the twins with Stephen, entered a final decree of adoption, dismissed the CHINS case, and ruled consent to adoption by the DCS wasn't required.

The justices decided to leave open the residency question and instead looked at three other issues in the case.

Hamilton County wasn't the proper venue for this adoption hearing as Stephen, the children, nor the placing agency were living or located in Hamilton County. In situations such as this case, the adoption court should transfer the matter to the county where the children are located, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

The adoption court also erred by dispensing, solely on Stephen's request, DCS's statutory role to provide prior written approval of the adoption before DCS even knew about the adoption. DCS only learned of the adoption because of the CHINS proceeding.

Finally, the adoption court failed to completely comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, which is used when children are sent to live with adoptive parents in another state. There are certain conditions for the placement of children set forth in the compact which are designed to provide complete and accurate information regarding the children and their adoptive parents. Indiana's central Compact office contacted New Jersey's Compact office to evaluate Stephen's suitability as an adoptive parent, but he declined to participate saying he was an Indiana resident. There is also nothing in the record that a New Jersey home study was sent to the adoption court saying the adoption would or wouldn't be in the best interest of the children, wrote the chief justice.

Indiana retains jurisdiction over the twins because of the compact, wrote Chief Justice Shepard. The final order of adoption is reversed for want of compliance with the compact and remanded with direction to comply with it and thereafter issue a further judgment accordingly. The order granting Stephen preliminary custody remains in effect pending completion of this directive and any eventual orders the trial court may enter.

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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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