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Indiana Court of Appeals: Adoption does not require mother’s consent
Posted in Estate Planning

Last week, the Indiana Court of Appeals held the trial court ruling that a mother’s consent to the adoption of her children is not required if the mother knowingly and intentionally did not pay child support, and was shown to have a serious and ongoing drug addiction. In the Matter of the Adoption of K.F. and T.F.; B.F. v. L.F., the father and mother of the children divorced in 2002. The father was awarded custody of the couple’s two children. The mother was ordered to pay child support. The father remarried in 2006. Two years later, his wife filed a petition to adopt the children. By statute, such consent is not required under various circumstances, including:

  • when the parent knowingly fails to provide for the care and support of the child as required by law or decree; or
  • it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit, and that the best interests of the child would be served if adoption can proceed without the parent's consent. 

The mother battled a serious drug addition, and paid little child support to the father. By 2009, she owed more than $14,000 in child support. Her parenting time was required to be supervised, and she was subject to drug screenings that she repeatedly failed. She was arrested for dealing heroin in 2009. After a hearing, the trial court found that in this case, consent of the mother was not required. The mother appealed, arguing that the “lack of support” exception had not been proven. She argued that she had struggled to maintain a job since the divorce. The Court of Appeals rejected the mother's argument, finding that, on three occasions since the divorce, the mother had signed documents stating her non-payment of child support was knowing and willing. "We hold that the agreed orders for contempt, whereby Mother admitted to having knowingly and intentionally failed to pay child support, are sufficient evidence that Mother had the ability to make those payments." As to the issue of Mother being unfit, the Court of Appeals reviewed the significant evidence, including numerous failed drug screens and evidence of use of cocaine, heroin Percocet and assorted opiates. "The evidence is sufficient to prove that Mother is unfit to be a parent." The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s approval of the adoption of the children by the stepmother.

To learn more about Michael Kohlhaas and his practice, please visit his profile.

  • Partner

    Mike is a partner in Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP’s Estate Planning Department. The Estate Planning Department seamlessly coordinates and executes a wide array of legal services that cater to the unique needs of high ...

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