In re: the Adoption of S.P., J.P., K.P., and E.P. (June 4, 2021) (Adoption Consent Withdrawal Case)
HELD: Trial court did not err when it denied parents’ effort to withdraw previously executed adoption consents. While the parents sought to withdraw their consents timely, they failed to meet their burden of proving that the withdrawal would be in the best interests of their children.
FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Mother and Father are the parents of fourteen children. DCS has a history of being involved with the family due to domestic disputes between Mother and Father and substance abuse. As part of a 2017 CHINS case, DCS moved to terminate parental rights of nine of the children, including the four Siblings that are the subject of this appeal.
In 2018, Mother and Father, each represented by separate counsel, executed Consent to Adoption forms for the Siblings; however, several weeks later, they sent a letter to the trial court expressing a desire to “reverse the consents to adopt.”
In 2019, Adoptive Parents filed petitions to adopt the Siblings, which attached Mother’s and Father’s adoption consents. Mother and Father objected, refuting the validity of the consents. The trial court granted summary judgment to Adoptive Parents that Mother and Father had signed their consents voluntarily, but held a hearing on whether allowing the consents to be withdrawn would be in the best interests of the Siblings. Afterwards, the trial court ruled that “[Mother and Father] bear the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, withdrawal of their consents is in the best interests of their children. [They] have failed to meet their burden.”
Mother and Father appealed. By statute, an adoption consent may be withdrawn not later than 30 days after it is signed, if: (1) the court finds the person seeking the withdrawal is acting in the best interests of the person sought to be adopted; and (2) the court orders the withdrawal. The person seeking withdrawal is subject to a “clear and convincing evidence” standard.
The Court of Appeals concluded the trial court did not err in denying Mother’s and Father’s efforts to withdraw consent. Importantly, the record supported a conclusion that granting the withdrawal would not lead to any stability for the Siblings, as DCS had expressed an intention of filing another parental rights termination petition if the consents were withdrawn.
The trial court’s order was affirmed.
James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas 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. Cross Glazier Reed Burroughs, PC, is the premiere boutique family law firm in the state of Indiana. Visit the firm’s website at https://www.cgblawfirm.com/
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