Father who says he didn’t know about adoption loses appeal

A father who claimed to have no notice of the adoption of his child has lost his appeal of a denied motion for relief.

After giving birth to their child in November 2010, E.F. and her husband J.F. separated, and the mother and child lived with E.F.’s parents for the entirety of the child’s young life. The child’s maternal grandparents were appointed as guardians and eventually sought to adopt her, alleging the father’s consent was not required because he knowingly failed to care for or support his daughter for at least one year and barely communicated with her.

The Marion Superior Court granted the adoption request, concluding J.F.’s consent was not necessary, that the child had been raised in her grandparent’s care since birth and that her best interests were protected and promoted by the grant of the adoption.

J.F. filed a motion for relief, arguing, among other things, that he did not reside at the address to which his attorney had sent a withdrawal of appearance letter informing him of the date, time and location of a contested hearing, that he “did not have notice or knowledge of the adoption or any hearing thereon” and that the decree was void. The Marion Superior Court granted the adoptive parents’ motion to dismiss his request, noting J.F. had filed for relief nearly two years after the adoption decree was issued.

On appeal, J.F. alleged the trial court erred in its dismissal and that the statute of limitations under Indiana Code §§ 31-19-14-2 and -4 were not an absolute bar.

But the appellate court disagreed in its decision in J.F. v. L.K. and G.K., 19A-AD-1373, notingJ.F. had been informed about the adoption when he was summoned and subsequently filed an objection to the adoption in 2014. His attorney at the time, the court added, had filed an appearance for J.F. the same year and notified the court that he had informed J.F. of the adoptive parents’ contested hearing, while J.F. appeared in person and did not file his motion for relief from judgment until more than a year later.

“We also observe that Ind Code § 31-19-14-4 specifically precludes J.F. from contesting the adoption decree even if notice of the adoption was not given,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the panel. “In light of the time periods set forth in the relevant statutes and Trial Rule 60(B) and J.F.’s knowledge of the adoption, we find that his motion for relief from judgment was not timely filed. We find no abuse of discretion.”

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