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Grandparents lose adoption appeal in first-impression case

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Grandparents who filed late motions challenging a stepfather’s adoption of a 6-year-old are not entitled to relief based on their argument they didn’t receive legal notice, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday in a family law case raising two issues of first impression.

The grandparents had been almost sole caregivers for B.C.H. from the time she was a newborn until she was about 27 months old, according to the record, during which time B.C.H’s teenage mother visited about once a week.

In 2010, mother married the father of her second child, and the couple adopted B.C.H. Grandparents didn’t receive legal notice of the adoption or consent, but they were aware stepfather had filed the adoption petition, which was granted in August 2011. But the grandparents continue to seek custody in ongoing proceedings.

In In the Matter of the Adoption of B.C.H., a Minor, 41A04-1308-AD-388, the Court of Appeals panel affirmed trial court orders denying the grandparents’ motions for relief from judgment and motions to correct error that aimed to set aside the trial court’s adoption decree.

Judge Rudy R. Pyle III noted the issues of first impression in this case: “(1) whether the phrase 'lawful custody' is equivalent to the phrase 'legal custody' for purposes of Indiana Code § 31-19-9-1, such that a lawful custodian must be court ordered; and (2) whether Grandparents qualified as lawful custodians by meeting the statutory qualifications for being de facto custodians.”

"In light of ... common law history of disfavoring the right of any party other than a child’s parents to object to an adoption, we hold that the adoption statute’s use of the phrase “lawful custody” under Ind. Code § 31-19-9-1(a)(3) is equivalent to “legal custody,” that is, court-ordered custody. Absent clear language from the Legislature, it is not our place to create a right where it has never before existed.

"Likewise ... we also will not create a right for parties without legal custody of a child to receive notice of adoption proceedings," Pyle wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Cale Bradford, holding that the grandparents do not qualify as legal guardians or lawful custodians.

Judge Paul Mathias in a separate opinion wrote that he would have required stepfather to obtain grandparents’ consent for the adoption, but because grandparents had actual notice of the proceedings and didn’t attempt to contest the adoption, he concurs with the majority.

Mathias disagrees with the majority’s equivalence of the statutory terms “lawful custody” and “legal custody.”

“Mother voluntarily relinquished custody of B.C.H. to Grandparents shortly after the child was born. Because Grandparents were B.C.H.’s primary caregivers, lived with and financially supported her, the Johnson Juvenile Court determined that Grandparents qualified as B.C.H.’s de facto custodians. Under these circumstances, and under the plain meaning of the term “lawful,” I would conclude that Grandparents had “lawful” custody of B.C.H., and therefore, notice of Stepfather’s adoption petition and Grandparent’s consent to B.C.H.’s adoption was required," Mathias wrote.

That said, circumstances here didn’t warrant such determinations, Mathias concluded.

"Although Grandparents’ consent to the adoption was not sought, Grandparents had actual notice that Stepfather had initiated adoption proceedings. But Grandparents failed to intervene in or to contest the adoption proceedings; therefore, I would hold that Grandparents cannot challenge the decree of adoption at this late date. For this reason, I concur in the result reached by the majority."

 
 



 

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  1. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  2. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  3. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  4. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  5. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

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