The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed an adoption petition after it found the adoptive mother did not participate in a sufficient background check and the court should have combined the adoption proceedings with a paternity hearing that was also occurring at the same time.
Father’s paternity of three children and custody of them was granted in 2012. He attempted to notify the mother of the children to her child support and parenting time obligations, but the mother did not attend the hearing. Father had remarried in 2009, and in 2015, the adoptive mother filed a petition to adopt father’s children.
The biological mother objected. During the hearing on the adoption petition, the parties discussed hearings pending in other courts and the trial court said during the hearing that the paternity case should be consolidated in the adoption case. But, since all the parties were together, the hearing on the adoption proceeded anyway. The trial court granted the adoption petition and the biological mother appealed.
The biological mother argued that the adoptive mother did not complete a background check as part of Indiana Code. The adoptive mother said she had complied with the background check, but that only covered arrests in Johnson County and was not a nationwide search. She also argued that the biological mother did not object to the background check, but the COA said those checks were vitally necessary to ensure children’s safety and the fact that the biological mother didn’t object didn’t mean they weren’t necessary.
The trial court also noted the absence of a child placement agency or the Department of Child Services in the adoption, and said one of those agencies needs to be involved in every adoption.
The court also ruled that the previous paternity case should have been combined with the current adoption case. The COA cited Indiana Code 31-19-2-14(a) which clearly mandates that process, and by closing the adoption case first, combination with the paternity case would be impossible.
The case, In Re: the Adoption of S.O., A.O., and N.O., P.P. v. A.O., 41A01-1510-AD-1781, was remanded for further proceedings.