New York relatives lose appeal to adopt Madison Co. kids

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Two Madison County minors will remain in the custody of their grandparents after out-of-state relatives failed in their appeal of an adverse judgment in their adoption case.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Madison Circuit Court 2’s denial of K.C. and F.M.’s motion requesting relief from judgment. K.C. and F.M., the paternal aunt and uncle of C.M.L. and C.T.L., had filed for kinship adoption of the children in June 2020.

The previous year, C.M.L. and C.T.L. had been adjudicated as children in need of services and were later placed with their maternal grandparents while their mother was out-of-state. DCS contested the aunt and uncle’s adoption petition, arguing it was not in the best interests of the kids, who had been with their grandparents for two months, formed bonds with them and were receiving services they needed in Madison County for their special needs.

For her part, the children’s mother alleged that she had contact with the children and spent time with them, and that she had moved out of state to address her substance abuse issues and to get married. However, K.C. and F.M. argued Mother had abandoned the children and failed to communicate with them or support them for the previous year.

But DCS noted the aunt and uncle lived in New York and had met the children a “handful of times,” arguing that the adoption would remove the children from the community and the services that were in place for them.

The case was eventually transferred from Madison Circuit Court 3, with a probate docket, to Madison Circuit Court 2, a juvenile court, where other proceedings for the children had taken place. The aunt and uncle, upset that the trial court failed to hold a hearing on its Indiana Trial Rule 60(B) motion for relief from judgment, appealed after the trial court denied their motion and specifically stated that it would retain jurisdiction over the adoption proceedings.

The appellate court initially found that the out-of-state relatives were not required to respond to DCS’ motion to transfer the case, and as such, the grant of the motion wasn’t erroneous.

“Moreover, even if a response were required and the trial court prematurely transferred the cause without awaiting Paternal Aunt and Uncle’s objections to DCS’s motion, we cannot say that the transfer was erroneous as Madison Circuit Courts are courts of general jurisdiction without a separate, designated probate court,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the appellate court.

“Paternal Aunt and Uncle filed their petition for adoption in Madison Circuit Court 3, a division with a probate docket. While the case was appropriately filed, CHINS and termination proceedings with respect to the minor children were already pending in Madison Circuit Court 2, which had accumulated information about the children’s situation, wellbeing, and best interests,” Riley continued.

“… Accordingly, as the adoption proceeding was just initiated and to avoid contradictory results, a transfer of the cause to Madison Circuit Court 2 promoted efficiency, fair distribution, and timely resolution of the petitions. Therefore, as transfer was appropriate, was not made by mistake, and is not void, we conclude that Madison Circuit Court 2 did not abuse its discretion by denying Paternal Aunt and Uncle’s T.R. 60(B) motion.”

The case is In re the Matter of the Adoption of Minor Children, C.M.L. and C.T.L., K.C. and F.M., Paternal Aunt and Uncle v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 21A-AD-714.


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