COA affirms denial of birth mother’s consent argument in adoption dispute

A birth mother unsuccessfully argued that her consent was required for her daughter’s aunt and uncle to adopt the child, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

Following a five-year guardianship of their niece, J.B. and M-A.B filed a petition to adopt E.B. The child’s birth mother, K.M., only sporadically visited the child during that time, eventually prompting E.B.’s guardians to file for adoption. However, K.M. opposed the request, arguing that her consent was necessary.

But because her visitation during the guardianship had been intermittent and because she had never provided monetary child support, the adoptive parents argued that K.M.’s consent to the adoption was not required under Indiana law.

The Johnson Superior Court agreed, finding K.M.’s consent was not required because there was a two-year period during which she was capable of providing child support and chose not to. Affirming the trial court, a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals declined to disturb the decision.

“It is clear from the record that Mother’s employment was often sporadic. It is also clear that she suffered from significant medical issues for a prolonged period. What is not clear is that the trial court erred when it balanced those factors against the testimony pertaining to Mother’s wages, and her apparent ability to successfully pay for various, often significant, expenditures. For this Court to reverse the trial court’s ruling, the facts must compel a single conclusion, and the trial court must have reached the opposite conclusion. We are unconvinced that has happened here,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote for the appellate court.

It concluded that between 2014 and K.M.’s hospitalization in 2016, she was capable of providing child support, yet chose not to. Thus, the appellate court found that that K.M.’s total income was never established and standing alone, “does not suffice for the appellate court to disturb the findings of the trial court.

“The trial court’s finding that Mother’s consent to the adoption was unnecessary was not clearly erroneous,” the appellate court concluded.

The case is In Re the Adoption of E.B. (Minor Child) and K.M. (Biological Mother) v. J. B. and M-A.B. (Adoptive Parents), 20A-AD-1440.

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