A child born to a married couple who placed the newborn for adoption may have had a different father, and a trial court erred in denying his requests for genetic testing that could have given him standing to contest the adoption, the Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.
L.D. and J.D. filed a petition to adopt I.J. three days after she was born to mother Ka.J. and her husband, Ke.J. I.J. was given to L.D. and J.D. at birth on March 21, 2014, and the adoptive parents have raised and cared for her since. Their adoption petition was granted last December.
On April 3, 2014, T.M. told the court he believed he was the child’s biological father, and he signed up with the putative father registry on April 15, 2014. He later sought genetic testing to prove his paternity, which Noble Circuit Judge G. David Laur denied multiple times.
Appellate Judge Melissa May wrote for the panel that the trial court erred in its reading of I.C. 31-19-5-2(a). “As T.M. registered before I.J. was thirty days old, his registration was timely. T.M. therefore was entitled to notice of the adoption and should have been permitted to contest it.
“We are mindful of the fact that I.J. has been in the care, custody and control of Adoptive Parents since birth and our reversal may create instability in her young life. But we cannot ignore the constitutional dimension of the parental right that arose with T.M.’s timely registration with the putative father registry. Accordingly, we reverse and remand,” May wrote.
Judge Margret Robb concurred but wrote separately to stress why the court erred in refusing T.M.’s request for genetic testing. She noted the adoption consent statute grants a third party who claims to be the biological parent the right to seek genetic testing to rebut a husband’s presumption of paternity.
“As we have determined herein that T.M. timely registered with the putative father registry, and with the clarification that T.M. has the right to seek genetic paternity testing irrespective of Ke.J.’s presumed paternity, I concur,” Robb wrote.
The case is In re the Matter of: I.J., Child, T.M. v. L.D. and J.D., 57A03-1501-AD-28.