Trial Court Within Discretion in Barring Putative Father from Establishing Paternity

Case: In the Matter of the Adoption and Paternity of K.G.B., E.S. v. T.B. and K.B.
Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas and Tamara McMillian, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD:  The trial court’s ruling was upheld that Putative Father failed to timely register with Indiana’s Putative Father Registry (“Registry”) which resulted in him irrevocably and implicitly consenting to Child’s adoption by Child’s maternal grandfather. The trial court was within its discretion in barring Putative Father from establishing paternity of Child.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
In August 2012, Mother gave birth to Child. In August 2013, Mother filed a request with the Registry searching for any registered putative father of Child. The Registry search results indicated that no putative father of the Child was registered and no paternity determination was on file for Child. On August 27, 2013, Child’s maternal grandfather, T.B., filed a petition to adopt Child. Mother consented to T.B. adopting Child.  T.B. and Mother agreed that Mother would retain her maternal rights to Child. Mother also intended to share in the parental responsibilities and obligations with T.B.

In September 2013, T.B. filed an amended petition to adopt Child including Mother’s consent for him to adopt and evidence that no putative father registered with the Registry and there was no paternity determination on file.

In October 2013, Putative Father filed a paternity petition and a motion contesting the adoption of Child by T.B. Although Putative Father acknowledged that he failed to timely register with the Registry, he asserted that he should have been notified of the pending adoption proceedings regarding Child. Putative Father also alleged that the Indiana statutes were unconstitutional as applied to him and his due process rights were violated. Mother moved to dismiss Putative Father’s paternity action and T.B. filed a motion to strike Putative Father’s motion. In January 2014, Putative Father filed an amended paternity petition as being brought by “as next friend for” Child and filed a motion to correct error. The trial court denied Putative Father’s motion to correct errors. Putative Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals essentially agreed with Mother and T.B. on all of the paternity and constitutional issues. The Court concluded that the trial court correctly held Putative Father was not entitled to notice of T.B.’s adoption proceedings because Putative Father failed to timely register with the Registry. Putative Father’s failure to timely register resulted in an irrevocably implied consent and he was barred from establishing paternity of Child. The court reasoned that when Putative Father failed to register within the required time period under Ind. Code  § 31-19-5-12, he waived notice of any adoption proceedings. Since Putative Father was barred from establishing paternity, the trial court appropriately held that he was also blocked from establishing paternity as next friend of a child.

The Court also held that Putative Father failed to meet his burden of establishing that the statutes were unconstitutionally applied to him. Putative Father lacked evidence that his due process rights were violated because he failed to demonstrate that he had established any substantial relationship with Child prior to T.B.’s adoption request.

The trial court’s orders were affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In the Matter of the Adoption and Paternity of K.G.B., E.S. v. T.B. and K.B.

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James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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