Madison v. Barnett, A04A0196.

Decision Date07 June 2004
Docket NumberNo. A04A0196.,A04A0196.
Citation601 S.E.2d 704,268 Ga. App. 348
PartiesMADISON et al. v. BARNETT et al.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Leon Larke, Augusta, for Appellant.

Mildred Jackson, Fleming, Blanchard, Jackson, Ingram, et., Augusta, for Appellee.

JOHNSON, Presiding Judge.

The paternal grandparents of W.M. appeal from the denial of their petition to adopt W.M. The grandparents argue that the evidence does not support the superior court's decision, that the court improperly considered a ruling in a prior deprivation case involving W.M. and both sets of grandparents, and that the trial court speculated that the appellants would not cooperate with the maternal grandparents on visitation matters if the adoption were granted. The arguments are without merit, so we affirm the decision of the trial court.

In an adoption case, the trial judge sits as both judge and jury and is vested with a broad range of legal discretion.1 The purpose of the hearing upon the petition of adoption is to determine whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child.2 Where each living parent of the child has surrendered his rights to the child, the court is to consider whether the adopting parents are capable of assuming responsibility for the child, whether the child is suitable for adoption in a private family home, and whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child.3

Construed in favor of the trial court's decision,4 the evidence shows that Tracy Madison gave birth to W.M. in October 1999. The mother experienced complications related to the birth and died a few weeks later. The child's father, William Madison, Jr., took the child with him to reside at the home of his parents, William Madison, Sr. and Shirley Madison. In March 2001, the child's father went to prison, and custody of the child was divided between the Madisons and the maternal grandparents, James and Elaine Barnett. W.M.'s father relinquished his rights to the child in favor of his parents, the Madisons.

In June 2001, according to the order being appealed,5 the juvenile court entered an order transferring primary physical custody of the child to the Barnetts, and allowing the Madisons to have regular visitation. A few months later, both sets of grandparents filed separate petitions to adopt the child. An investigator recommended that both petitions be approved. Noting that it could not grant both petitions, and that it would be in the child's best interest to have both sets of grandparents working together to provide for the child's support, the court denied both petitions for adoption. 1. The Madisons maintain that there was no evidence to support the court's finding that denying their adoption petition would be in the best interest of the child. The Madisons point out that the child's father voluntarily surrendered his rights to the child to them, and that they are worthy and capable of caring for the child. We acknowledge that there is evidence to support these contentions. Nonetheless, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Madisons' petition.

In a proceeding for adoption, the court considers whether: (1) each living parent of the child has surrendered or had terminated all his rights to the child in the manner provided by law; (2) the adopting parent is capable of assuming responsibility for the care, supervision, training, and education of the child; (3) the child is suitable for adoption in a private family home; and (4) the adoption requested is for the best interest of the child.6 When even slight evidence supports the trial court's denial of a petition to adopt, it cannot be held that the discretion residing in that court was abused, particularly if that slight evidence indicates the best interest of the child will be served by denying the petition to adopt.7

In this case, the trial court expressly stated in its order that it was required to consider whether adoption would be in the best interest of the child. In making that determination, the court mentioned the previous decision by the juvenile court that the Barnetts should have primary physical custody, that the testimony did not show any change in circumstance since June 2001, that there was no evidence that the Barnetts mistreated the child, that the child "needs both [sets of] his grandparents to work together for his best interest," that placement with the Madisons would likely result in "lessening, and perhaps eliminating [W.M.'s] contact with the Barnetts," and that, were the adoption granted, it is unlikely that the two sets of grandparents "would reach the level of cooperation so necessary to protect [W.M.'s] best interest."

The court's decision is supported by record evidence that the Madisons did not always cooperate with the Barnetts in arranging for visitation with the child. And there was evidence that the Madisons' financial situation was uncertain, as there were liens on their property and a $600,000 judgment rendered against them that had not been satisfied. Inasmuch as there was some evidence from which the trial court could find that it would not be in the best interest of the child to grant the petition, the ruling must be affirmed.8

We note that, contrary to the Madisons' position, the fact that their son surrendered his rights to the child over to his parents pursuant to OCGA § 19-8-7(a) (which allows a child to be adopted by a relative with the surviving parent's consent), is not determinative. The father's surrender of his rights to W.M. to his parents certainly impacts the first requirement set forth above. But fulfillment of that requirement does not vitiate the fourth requirement of OCGA § 19-8-18(b) — which incorporates the overriding concern of the adoption statutes — that the court must consider the best interest of the child in making adoption decisions. In fact, the case upon which the Madisons rely to support their argument that the surviving parent has the right to decide what will happen to his child, Hester v. Mathis,9 does not support their position. Hester holds that the trial court must consider, in addition to whether the surviving parent consents to the adoption, whether the adopting parent is capable of...

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7 cases
  • Thaggard v. Willard
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • May 14, 2007
    ...affirmed). 3. (Citation omitted.) In the Interest of D.D., 273 Ga.App. 839(1), 616 S.E.2d 179 (2005). 4. See Madison v. Barnett, 268 Ga.App. 348, 350(1), 601 S.E.2d 704 (2004). 5. (Citation omitted.) In the Interest of D.D., supra. 6. Madison, supra at 348, 349(1), 601 S.E.2d 704. 7. See OC......
  • Owen v. Watts, A08A2012.
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • March 5, 2009
    ...for adoption in a private family home; and (4) the adoption requested is for the best interest of the child. Madison v. Barnett, 268 Ga.App. 348, 349(1), 601 S.E.2d 704 (2004). See OCGA § 19-8-18(b). Since the trial court sits as both the judge and jury, it is vested with broad discretion t......
  • Smith v. Hutcheson
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • December 20, 2006
    ...interest of L.M.S. to continue the status quo pending the juvenile court's final action was an abuse of discretion. Madison v. Barnett, 268 Ga.App. 348, 601 S.E.2d 704 (2004); see Stills v. Johnson, 272 Ga. 645, 649(2), 533 S.E.2d 695 3. Finally, Smith argues that the trial court erred in d......
  • In Re The Petition Of Theresa Goudeau To Adopt A Minor Child ., A10A1720
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • August 27, 2010
    ...hearing upon the petition of adoption is to determine whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child.” Madison v. Barnett, 268 Ga.App. 348, 601 S.E.2d 704 (2004). We will affirm the court's decision to grant or deny an adoption petition if any evidence supports it. Owen v. Watts,......
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13 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Is It Admissible? - 2015 Part IV - Demonstrative Evidence
    • July 31, 2015
    ...780 (N.Y. 1995), §9.507.1 Madden v. Dake , 30 A.D.3d 932, 819 N.Y.S.2d 121 (N.Y.A.D., 3 Dept., 2006), §22.408(b) Madison v. Barnett , 601 S.E.2d 704 (Ga.App. 2004), Overview Maffett v. Bliss, 264 Ill.dec. 741, 771 N.E.2d 445, 329 Ill.App.3d, 562 (2002), §21.425 Magar v. State, 826 S.W.2d 22......
  • Preliminary Sections
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Is It Admissible? Preliminary Sections
    • May 1, 2022
    ...115 P.3d 165, 34 Kan. App.2d 93 (2005); Care & Treatment of Wadleigh v. State , 145 S.W.3d 434 (Mo. Ct. App., 2004); Madison v. Barnett , 601 S.E.2d 704 (Ga. App., 2004); Bader v. Dallas Central Appraisal District , 139 S.W.3d 778 (Tex. App. Dallas 2004); Jackson v. State Farm Mut. Auto. In......
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Is It Admissible? - 2014 Part IV - Demonstrative Evidence
    • July 31, 2014
    ...780 (N.Y. 1995), §9.507.1 Madden v. Dake , 30 A.D.3d 932, 819 N.Y.S.2d 121 (N.Y.A.D., 3 Dept., 2006), §22.408(b) Madison v. Barnett , 601 S.E.2d 704 (Ga.App. 2004), Overview Maffett v. Bliss, 264 Ill.dec. 741, 771 N.E.2d 445, 329 Ill.App.3d, 562 (2002), §21.425 Magar v. State, 826 S.W.2d 22......
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • August 2, 2016
    ...780 (N.Y. 1995), §9.507.1 Madden v. Dake , 30 A.D.3d 932, 819 N.Y.S.2d 121 (N.Y.A.D., 3 Dept., 2006), §22.408(b) Madison v. Barnett , 601 S.E.2d 704 (Ga.App. 2004), Overview Maffett v. Bliss, 264 Ill.dec. 741, 771 N.E.2d 445, 329 Ill.App.3d, 562 (2002), §21.425 Magar v. State, 826 S.W.2d 22......
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