COA affirms denial of biological mother’s motion to set aside adoption

Although an Indiana trial court erred in declining to dismiss a biological mother’s motion to overturn her child’s adoption, the court properly denied that motion, keeping the adoption in place. Thus, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed and upheld the Clinton County adoption on Tuesday.

After R.P. and K.P. became the adoptive parents of C.C.’s child, N.D., issues arose regarding post-adoption contact. R.P. and K.P. ultimately ended communication between C.C. and the child.

Prior to the adoption, C.C., R.P. and K.P. signed a “Visitation and Media Understanding” that set parameters surrounding C.C.’s visitation with N.D. and the adoptive parents’ obligation to send photos/videos of their child to C.C. The adoptive parents agreed to “make all reasonable allowances for visitation” up to three times a year for 24 hours, with one-month advance notification. They also agreed to send photos and allow live video or audio chat sessions between C.C. and the child.

When the Clinton Circuit Court held a hearing on the adoption petition and granted it, C.C. did not attend, even though she was visiting Indiana from her home in California. Then, when communication was ended between C.C. and the child, C.C. filed a “Verified Motion to Set Aside Adoption,” arguing the adoption should be set aside pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 60(B) due to “[m]istake; fraud; and in the interests of justice.”

The trial court denied R.P. and K.P.’s motion to dismiss but also denied C.C.’s motion to set aside, prompting her to appeal in In Re the Adoption of: N.I.D. (Minor Child), and C.C. (Mother) v. R.P. and K.P., 20A-AD-187.

“On appeal, C.C. makes no argument regarding the Child’s best interests and has failed to demonstrate that the trial court’s findings and conclusions thereon are clearly erroneous,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote for the appellate court.

The appellate panel noted C.C. did not seek to withdraw her consent prior to the entry of the adoption decree. Therefore, Indiana Code § 31-19-14-3(d) explicitly prohibited her from challenging the decree.

“Because C.C.’s motion to set aside the adoption did not comply with the time limitations of Indiana Code Chapter 31-19-14, the trial court should have granted R.P. and K.P.’s motion to dismiss,” the appellate court wrote. “Regardless, the trial court properly denied C.C.’s motion to set aside.”

The panel further found that because the post-adoption contact agreement did not comply with the statutes, a judicial determination of the best interests of the child was not necessary to terminate contact.

“The breakdown of communication between C.C. and R.P. and K.P., although unfortunate, does not invalidate C.C.’s consent or provide a basis to revoke the adoption decree,” Tavitas wrote. “The trial court found that C.C.’s consent was voluntary, and we agree. C.C.’s consent argument does not establish that C.C. is entitled to relief from the judgment under Trial Rule 60(B).”

Lastly, the appellate court rejected C.C.’s argument under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, finding it did not establish that she is entitled to relief from judgment.

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