In the Matter of the Adoption of E.M.M. (February 17, 2021)
HELD: Trial court’s denial of Grandparents’ adoption petition was affirmed, as the Court of Appeals declined to reweigh the best interests evidence that led the trial court to deny the adoption.
FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Mother and Father had Child together in 2010, but never married. The three lived together in Arizona for an extended period after Child’s birth. Father established paternity in 2012.
In 2017, Mother and Child moved to Indiana, and Mother remarried Stepfather. In 2018, Mother and Stepfather were convicted of domestic battery arising from injuries to Child’s sibling, which resulted in Child and Mother’s two other children being placed with Grandparents. DCS was unable to contact Father.
In 2019, while a CHINS case was proceeding, DCS located Father in Arizona, causing DCS to elect a placement of Child with Father. However, Grandparents then filed a petition to adopt Child. The trial court heard Grandparents’ adoption petition on its merits, and denied it based upon an analysis of Child’s best interests. Grandparents appealed. On appeal, Grandparents argued that the evidence established the adoption would be in Child’s best interests, as they had provided a stable home for Child for many years. However, the Court of Appeals considered this a request to reweigh the evidence, which it declined to do. The Court noted that the CASA testified to the trial court that adoption was unequivocally not in Child’s best interests, and that Child had been flourishing in Arizona since reunification with Father. Finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, its denial of Grandparents’ adoption petition was affirmed.
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