Divided justices deny transfer to reversed adoption

April 26, 2018

Despite having already granted the adoption petition, the Vanderburgh Superior Court must revisit an adoption case after the Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer to a Court of Appeals opinion that found an error in the trial court’s decision.

Justices Mark Massa, Geoffrey Slaughter and Christopher Goff voted to deny transfer to In re: Adoption of J.R.O. (Minor Child); J.O. (Father) v. A.T. and M.H., 82A05-1706-AD-01331, in which the trial court determined J.O.’s consent to his son’s adoption was irrevocably implied. The court reached that decision based on J.O.’s failure to file a written objection to the adoption.

But the Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed in November and instead found that J.O. satisfied the requirements of Indiana Code section 31-19-9-18 when his counsel entered oral objections during court hearings. J.O. did not appear at those hearings because he was incarcerated.

The Supreme Court heard oral argument on petition to transfer last month, and the majority justices denied the petition on Thursday. But Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Steven David dissented, with Rush writing separately that “keeping (the COA’s) holding from making mischief in our trial courts requires more guidance, which this Court should provide.”

“Naturally, the best practice is for the objecting person to file a written motion to contest the adoption,” Rush wrote. “If the motion is only oral, safeguards are needed.”

Rush wrote she would have granted transfer to put three safeguards in place: ensuring the objecting motion is on the record, the parties are present or promptly notified, and the motion “is clearly reflected on the chronological case summary.”

“Without these safeguards, records may be left incomplete and confusing, hampering effective appellate review,” Rush wrote in a dissent joined by David. “That serves no one’s best interest, so I respectfully dissent from the denial of transfer.”





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