Adoption case remanded to determine if man is child’s ‘legal’ father

An Indiana man who claims he is the “legal,” but not biological, father of a child has successfully challenged a lower court ruling that his consent to the child’s adoption was not required. The adoption case will now return to the trial court, where a judge must determine if the man actually is the child’s “legal” father.

In B.A. v. D.D. and C.D., 22A-AD-147, the Court of Appeals of Indiana determined the adoptive couple, D.D. and C.D., did not meet their burden of proving that father B.A.’s consent wasn’t required for the adoption of child P.A.

T.M., who is not a party in the appeal, gave birth to P.A. in February 2018. According to B.A., he executed a paternity affidavit in which he identified himself as the child’s father two weeks after the child’s birth.

Thereafter, the Indiana Department of Child Services filed a petition alleging the child was a child in need of services and placed P.A. with adoptive parents D.D. and C.D. The adoptive parents have had physical custody of the child since April 2019.

In July 2021, the adoptive parents filed an amended petition to adopt P.A., acknowledging B.A. is the child’s “legal father” but alleging his consent to the adoption was not required because he is not P.A.’s “biological father.”

After B.A. filed his objection and motion to dismiss the petition, which was denied by the Hamilton Superior Court, D.D. and C.D. moved for an order for B.A. to submit to DNA testing. The court granted that motion, and the results of the DNA test concluded B.A. is not P.A.’s biological father.

As a result, the adoptive parents filed a motion for summary judgment in which they asserted that because B.A. is not P.A.’s biological father, his consent to the adoption was “not required.”

B.A. responded that he was P.A’s “legal father” because he had executed a paternity affidavit. He also requested that the court set aside its prior order that he submit to DNA testing because “[o]nly a man who purports that he is the biological father of the minor child may seek to establish paternity, not prospective adoptive parents since Father’s paternity is already established per the Paternity Affidavit.”

B.A. contended that even if the court did not set aside the order, the DNA test results “do not negate or set aside the parentage that was established in [Father] when he executed the paternity affidavit.” But he did not designate any evidence in support of his response.

The trial court ultimately granted the adoptive parents’ motion for summary judgment. The court also denied B.A.’s motion to set aside the order for DNA testing.

On appeal, the COA reversed the summary judgment order and remanded to the trial court to determine if B.A. is, in fact, the legal father of P.A.

The COA concluded that just because B.A. isn’t the biological father of P.A., it doesn’t mean his consent wasn’t required.

“Adoptive Parents are correct that a ‘parent’ for purposes of the adoption statute is defined as ‘a biological or an adoptive parent,’” Judge Edward Najam wrote. “However, while the legislature used the word ‘parent’ in other parts of Indiana Code Section 31-19-9-1, it did not use that word in the relevant subsection.

“Indiana Code Section 31-19-9-1(a)(2) requires the consent of the ‘mother of a child born out of wedlock and the father of a child whose paternity has been established’ by a court proceeding or a paternity affidavit,” Najam continued. “Again, had the legislature intended that only a ‘parent’ of a child born out of wedlock be required to consent to an adoption, it would have said so.”

The COA also determined the order for DNA testing wasn’t erroneous.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.

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