Fathers Consent for Adoption Not Required…

Case: In re Adoption of T.L. and T.L.; M.G. v. R.J. and E.J. 
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Indiana Supreme Court holds that Father’s consent to adoption was not required where Father had an extended history of not paying any support for the children.

HELD: Even though Father’s pro se “notice of appeal” was defective and did not comply with Appellate Rule 9, Father’s appeal should have been afforded greater accommodation and not dismissed by the Court of Appeals due to the significance of the right to parent.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father had two children together. In 2002, a child support order of $30 per week was issued against Father. In 2004, the support order was increased to $106/wk. Since then, Father has spent most of the time incarcerated, except for a brief period when Father was unemployed, and Father has paid a grand total of $390 towards the support order — with no payments whatsoever since 2005.

In 2011, Mother remarried and her new Husband petitioned to adopt the children. Father opposed the adoption, but the trial court granted it anyway, citing the statute that a parent’s consent to adoption is not required if that parent “knowingly fails to provide for the care and support of the child when able to do so as required by law or judicial decree.”

Thirty days after the adoption decree issued, Father filed a pro se response that the trial court treated as a Notice of Appeal. However, the Court of Appeals dismissed Father’s appeal, upon the motion of Mother and Husband that Father’s appeal was not filed timely.

Father sought and was granted transfer by the Indiana Supreme Court. “Because of the importance surrounding an individual’s right to parent his children, we deny the Appellee’s Motion to Dismiss and proceed to the merits of Father’s claim.”

Reviewing the merits, the Supreme Court agreed that the record supported the trial court’s finding that Father had failed to support the children in a manner that removed the need for Father’s consent to the adoption. The Court was mindful of Father’s extended period of incarceration, but because Father did not make any payments of support whatsoever, coupled with the fact that extended periods when Father was out of prison also went without any support being paid, justified the trial court’s findings.

The trial court’s order granting Husband’s petition for adoption was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In re Adoption of T.L. and T.L.; M.G. v. R.J. and E.J.

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The Indiana Family Law Update is a free service provided by the Matrimonial Law Group of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP. While significant efforts are made to ensure an accurate summary and reproduction of each opinion, readers are advised to verify all content and analysis with a traditional case law reporter before relying on the content and analysis offered here.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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