Family Law Case Review: In the Matter of the Adoption of S.L. (June 20, 2023) (Adoption/Custody Notice Case)
HELD: While this appeal was dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction, the Indiana Supreme Court first noted that the Court of Appeals had incorrectly reversed the trial court's temporary custody order. The Father was not entitled to notice of a petition for temporary custody of Child.
FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Father is the biological father of Child. Child was removed 12 days after birth and placed with Adoptive Parents. Child thereafter divided time between Adoptive Parents and Grandparents.
When Child was five years old, Adoptive Parents petitioned to adopt Child, and also sought a preliminary temporary custody order while the adoption proceedings were pending. The two issues were consolidated by the trial court. Father was not served notice of either the petition for temporary custody or the adoption petition.
After a hearing at which only Adoptive Parents and Grandparents were present, the trial court granted temporary custody to Adoptive Parents pending resolution of their adoption petition. More than a year later, Father intervened and sought Trial Rule 60 relief to set aside the temporary custody order based upon lack of notice to him. The trial court denied Father’s Trial Rule 60 motion on the basis that the Indiana Code permits ex parte temporary custody orders and, thus, notice to Father was not required. Father appealed.
The Court of Appeals sided with Father, reasoning that because Adoptive Parents failed to serve Father with notice of their adoption petition, the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over Father, rendering the temporary custody order void. Adoptive Parents sought and were granted transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The Indiana Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals “erred in requiring notice in a temporary custody matter”; however, the Court ultimately dismissed the case based upon lack of appellate jurisdiction. There was no final appealable order here. The trial court “granted only temporary custody while the adoption petition was still pending. Its order was not a final judgment under Appellate Rule 2(H) because it neither disposed of all claims for all parties, nor stated “there was not just reason for delay” under Trial Rule 54(B).
Father’s appeal was dismissed.
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