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Indiana Supreme Court: Putative Father Did Not Irrevocably Consent to Adoption
Posted in Litigation

In a 4-1 opinion, the Indiana Supreme Court held that “under Indiana Code § 31-19-9-12(1), to be deemed to have implied his irrevocable consent to an adoption, a putative father must fail to file both a paternity action and a motion to contest the adoption.” 

In Matter of Adoption of Unborn Child of B.W., W.G. v. D.B. and J.B., the Court considered a situation in which an incarcerated father was notified of adoption proceedings in the Bartholomew Superior Court but initiated a paternity action in the Bartholomew Circuit Court.  The issue was whether his failure to file a motion to contest the adoption in the Superior Court amounted to irrevocably implying his consent to the adoption.

Confusion arose because Indiana Code § 31-19-10-1 does not designate the court in which a motion to contest an adoption must be filed while § 31-19-4-5, the notice statute, requires the putative father be notified that he must file a motion to contest the adoption in the above named court, or a paternity action.  Finding that the statutes must be strictly construed to favor the rights of biological parents, the Indiana Supreme Court stated that the plain language of the irrevocable consent statute “authorizes a court to determine irrevocable implied consent only when a putative father fails in both respects, i.e., only when, within thirty days after receiving notice of the adoption petition, the putative father fails both to file a motion to contest the adoption and also to file a paternity action.”  If he does either, the court is precluded from finding his implied irrevocable consent to the adoption. 

In this case, the father timely initiated a paternity action and asserted his parental rights in the court in accordance with the local court rules.  By registering with the Putative Father Registry and filing his petition to establish paternity, he put all parties on notice of his desire to play a role in his child’s life.  According to the Indiana Supreme Court, because he filed his paternity action in a timely manner, it was unnecessary to decide whether his attempt to contest the adoption filed in the Circuit Court satisfied the adoption implied consent statute.  The paternity action was sufficient for precluding a finding of implied irrevocable consent to the adoption.

To learn more about Meaghan Klem Haller and her practice, please visit her profile.

  • Partner

    Meaghan describes herself as an “unapologetic advocate” who will be upfront and honest with clients and thoroughly prepared on the law and facts of her cases.  She focuses her practice on corporate governance disputes, breaches ...

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