Monday, November 14, 2011

Must File Adoption and Petition to Terminate Parental Rights in Order for District Court to Take Jurisdiction, However, Adoption Need Not Be 100% Ripe at Time of Filing

In re R.B.F.S., 2011 UT 46, Utah Supreme Court August 2, 2011

Father signed a relinquishment and consent to adoption  at the time of his divorce in 2005.  In 2007, Mother remarried and she and Stepfather filed to terminate Father's parental rights and complete Stepfather's Petition for Adoption without providing notice to Father.  The Trial Court granted the adoption and termination.  Father appealed.  Father argued that since Stepfather did not qualify to file the adoption proceeding (because the children had not lived with him for one year), the adoption was not properly before the district court and accordingly, neither was the Petition for Termination.  The Court of Appeals agreed with Father and set aside the termination and adoption.  Mother and Stepfather petitioned for, and were granted cert.
The Supreme Court found that the District Court did have jurisdiction to hear the termination because Stepfather had filed the adoption with the termination proceedings.  The Court found no additional requirement that Stepfather qualify perfectly for the adoption before filing to terminate Father's parental rights.  In sum, while an adoption must be filed with the Petition to Terminate Parental rights in order for the district court to have jurisdiction, the Adoption Petitioner need not comply with all of U.C.A. 78B-6-135(7)(b) before filing the actions. Reversed to Court of Appeals to consider any other grounds for appeal.

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