Friday, February 15, 2013

Contested Adoptions: Still a Race to the Courthouse and GAL Fees Can Be Awarded on Bad Faith Grounds

In Re A.W. (BWH and SH v. State), 2012 UT App. 109, March 13, 2012

BWH and SH were Foster-parents to A.W.  A.W. was removed because of allegations of sexual abuse.  A.W. was placed in respite care and adopted.  Prior to the completion of the Adoption, BWH and SH Petitioned to adopt A.W.  Their Petition failed to meet minimal procedural guidelines.  Further, DCFS supported allegations of sexual abuse against Foster-father, Foster-parents allowed their license to lapse, and Foster-father was convicted of disorderly conduct.  The trial court refused to join the cases and ultimately dismissed Foster-parent’s petition.  The Court also awarded fees to the Guardian ad Litem because the Petition was brought in bad faith and the GAL substantially prevailed. Foster-parent’s appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Foster-parent’s petition for adoption.  Because of the procedural failings, and the impossibility of placement with Foster-parent’s based on Father’s actions the Court found that the dismissal of Foster-parents was appropriate.  The Court of Appeals also found that because of the impossibility of prevailing on the merits the award of attorney fees to the Guardian ad Litem was appropriate.

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