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Justices vacate adoption decree

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The Indiana Supreme Court ordered the adoption decree granted to paternal grandparents be vacated because they didn’t perform a diligent search for the biological mother.

Mother A.B. appealed the grant of adoption of her son L.D. to the boy’s paternal grandparents. When L.D. was born, mother was incarcerated and mother’s co-worker N.E. was appointed his guardian. N.E. adopted A.B. after L.D. was born and became his maternal grandmother. Eventually the paternal grandparents filed an adoption petition and asked the court to terminate N.E.’s rights to parenting time.

Neither N.E. nor A.B. was aware the paternal grandparents had filed the adoption petition. After the adoption was granted, they appealed. At issue in the instant case is whether mother A.B. had been given the notice the law required. The trial court denied her Indiana Trial Rule 60(B) request, holding that publication in an Indianapolis newspaper had been adequate with respect to A.B. The notice was placed in a newspaper geared toward the African-American community. None of the parties in the case is African-American.

In Adoption of L.D.; A.B. and N.E. v. Jo.D. and Ja.D., No. 49S02-1006-CV-330, the justices reversed, finding A.B. did not receive adequate notice as required by law. They cited several cases that explained that service by publication is inadequate when a diligent effort hasn’t been made to find a party.

The paternal grandparents and their attorney didn’t perform a diligent search required by the Due Process Clause, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

“Here, although Paternal Grandparents had successfully given notice to Mother at N.E.’s address on previous occasions, they made no attempt to do so here,” he wrote. “Viewing the evidence most favorably to them, they made only the most obtuse and ambiguous attempt to ask N.E. about Mother’s whereabouts. They affirmatively concealed from N.E. the very fact that they were filing an adoption petition even though the most minimal diligence to find Mother would have involved N.E. One need look no further than the fact that N.E. and Mother filed their motion in court less than two weeks after Paternal Grandparents told N.E. that the adoption had been granted to see how little effort would have been required for Paternal Grandparents to find Mother had they involved N.E.”

The justices remanded with directions to grant A.B.’s Trial Rule 60(B) motion.
 

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