E.S. v. T.B. (In re Paternity of K.G.B.)

Decision Date26 September 2014
Docket NumberNo. 12A02–1404–AD–255.,12A02–1404–AD–255.
Citation18 N.E.3d 292
PartiesIn the Matter of the ADOPTION and Paternity OF K.G.B., E.S., Appellant–Respondent, v. T.B. and K.B., Appellees–Petitioners.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

William A. Ramsey, Murphy Ice LLP, Fort Wayne, IN, Cynthia G. Harmon, Flora, IN, Attorneys for Appellant.

Richard D. Martin, Frankfort, IN, Attorney for Appellees.

OPINION

BRADFORD, Judge.

CASE SUMMARY

On August 22, 2012, AppelleePetitioner K.B. (Mother) gave birth to K.G.B. (the “Child”) out-of-wedlock. Paternity of the Child was not established at the time of the Child's birth. Approximately one year later, Mother consented to the adoption of the Child by Mother's father, AppelleePetitioner T.B., so long as Mother retained her maternal rights to the Child. Soon thereafter, T.B. filed a petition seeking to adopt the Child. A search of Indiana's Putative Father Registry (the “Registry”) did not reveal any registered putative fathers of the Child or indication that paternity of the Child had been established. Approximately one-and-one-half months after T.B. filed the adoption petition, AppellantRespondent E.S. (“Putative Father) filed a petition seeking to establish paternity of the Child (“paternity petition”) and a motion to contest the adoption of the Child by T.B. (“motion contesting the adoption”). In contesting the adoption, Putative Father acknowledged that he had failed to timely register with the Registry.

After Putative Father filed his paternity petition and motion contesting the adoption, T.B. filed a motion to strike Putative Father's motion contesting the adoption. Mother requested that the adoption and paternity cases be consolidated, a request which was subsequently granted by the trial court. Mother also filed a motion to dismiss Putative Father's paternity petition. Following a hearing on T.B.'s and Mother's (collectively, “the Appellees) pending motions, the trial court granted T.B.'s motion to strike Putative Father's motion contesting the adoption and Mother's motion to dismiss Putative Father's paternity petition. Putative Father argues on appeal that the trial court erroneously granted these motions.

Upon review, we conclude that pursuant to Indiana Code chapter 31–19–5, which relates to a putative father's rights and obligations regarding the Registry, Putative Father was not entitled to notice of the adoption proceedings because he failed to timely register with the Registry, and his failure to timely register amounted to an irrevocably implied consent to the Child's adoption. We further conclude that because Putative Father has impliedly consented to the adoption of the Child, he is also barred from establishing paternity of the Child. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand the matter for any additional necessary proceedings relating to T.B.'s adoption of the Child.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY1

On August 22, 2012, Mother gave birth to the Child out-of-wedlock. Paternity of the Child was not established at the time of the Child's birth. Nearly one year later, on August 20, 2013, Mother filed a request with the Registry, which is run by the Indiana Department of Health (the “DOH”), to conduct a search of the Registry for any registered putative father of the Child. The search revealed that no putative father of the Child was registered and that no paternity determination was on file with the DOH. The DOH employee responsible for the administration of the Registry issued an affidavit revealing the above results on August 23, 2013.

On August 27, 2013, the Child's maternal grandfather, T.B., filed a petition to adopt the Child. T.B.'s petition was accompanied by a consent to the adoption that was executed by Mother on August 22, 2013. Pursuant to the terms of Mother's consent, Mother would retain her maternal rights to the Child and would share parental rights and obligations relating to the Child with T.B.

On August 29, 2013, T.B. filed a motion for a change of judge. T.B.'s motion was joined by Mother and alleged that pursuant to T.B.'s knowledge and information, the trial judge to whom the adoption matter was assigned had potentially communicated with an individual who thought that he may be the Child's father while the trial judge was still at his private practice. The trial court subsequently granted T.B.'s motion requesting a change of judge.

On September 9, 2013, T.B., filed an amended petition for the adoption of the Child. T.B.'s amended petition added statements indicating that a search of the Registry revealed that paternity of the Child had not been established and that no putative father was listed on the Registry. The amended petition was again accompanied by a document indicating that Mother consented to the adoption. T.B.'s amended petition was also accompanied by the affidavit of the DOH employee responsible for the administration of the Registry outlining the results of the employee's search of the Registry, which again revealed that no putative father of the Child was registered and that no paternity determination was on file with the DOH.

On October 9, 2013, Putative Father filed the paternity petition through which he sought to establish paternity and resolve issues relating to custody, parenting time, and obligations by Putative Father to support the Child. Two days later, on October 11, 2013, Putative Father filed a motion contesting the adoption of the Child by T.B. In this motion, Putative Father acknowledged that he had not properly registered with the Registry, but argued that he nonetheless should have been notified of the pending adoption proceedings.

On October 22, 2013, T.B. filed a motion to strike Putative Father's motion contesting the adoption. In support, T.B. argued that Putative Father was not entitled to notice of the adoption proceedings because he failed to timely register with the Registry and, as a result, had irrevocably and implicitly consented to the adoption of the Child. Also on October 22, 2013, Mother filed a motion to dismiss Putative Father's paternity action. In support, Mother argued that Putative Father did not have standing to bring the paternity action because he failed to timely register with the Registry. Mother also argued that the paternity action should be dismissed because Putative Father failed to join a necessary party to the action, i.e., the Child. Mother requested that the trial court consolidate the adoption and paternity proceedings, a request which was granted by the trial court on November 15, 2013.

On December 19, 2013, the trial court conducted a hearing on the pending motions. During the hearing, counsel for Putative Father conceded that Putative Father had not timely registered with the Registry. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court gave the parties until January 10, 2014, to file any supplemental written post-hearing materials that the parties deemed necessary. On January 10, 2014, counsel for T.B. and Mother filed proposed orders granting Mother's motion to dismiss the paternity action and T.B.'s motion to strike Putative Father's motion contesting the adoption. On January 14, 2014, the trial court issued an order granting Mother's motion to dismiss. Also on January 14, 2014, the trial court issued an order granting T.B.'s motion to strike Putative Father's motion contesting the adoption.

On January 15, 2014, Putative Father filed an amended paternity petition. Putative Father styled the amended paternity petition as being brought “as next friend for” the Child. Appellant's App. pp. 56–57. Also on January 15, 2014, Putative Father filed a brief in support of his argument against T.B.'s motion to strike Putative Father's motion contesting the adoption and Mother's motion to dismiss the paternity action.2

On February 13, 2014, Putative Father filed a motion to correct error. Putative Father's motion to correct error was subsequently denied by the trial court. This appeal follows.

DISCUSSION AND DECISION
I. Standard of Review

Putative Father appeals from the trial court's denial of his motion to correct error. “Rulings on motions to correct error are typically reviewable under an abuse of discretion standard.” Boyd v. WHTIV, Inc., 997 N.E.2d 1108, 1110 (Ind.Ct.App.2013), reh'g denied. Under these circumstances, we reverse “only where the trial court's judgment is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before it or where the trial court errs on a matter of law.” Perkinson v. Perkinson, 989 N.E.2d 758, 761 (Ind.2013) (citing Hawkins v. Cannon, 826 N.E.2d 658, 663 (Ind.Ct.App.2005), trans. denied ). However, we review the matter de novo when the issue on appeal is purely a question of law.” Boyd, 997 N.E.2d at 1110.

II. Overview of the Putative Father Registry

Indiana established the Registry in 1994. In re Paternity of G.W., 983 N.E.2d 1193, 1196 (Ind.Ct.App.2013), reh'g denied. The Registry is managed by the DOH.

Ind.Code § 31–19–5–2. “The purpose of the registry is to provide notice to a putative father that a petition for adoption has been filed.” In re Adoption of J.D.C., 751 N.E.2d 747, 749 (Ind.Ct.App.2001) (citing In re Paternity of Baby Doe, 734 N.E.2d 281, 284 (Ind.Ct.App.2000) ); see also Ind.Code § 31–19–5–3. The statutory authority governing the Registry

applies to a putative father whenever (1) an adoption under IC 31–19–2 has been or may be filed regarding a child who may have been conceived by the putative father; and (2) on or before the date the child's mother executes a consent to the child's adoption, the child's mother has not disclosed the name or address, or both, of the putative father to the attorney or agency that is arranging the child's adoption.

Ind.Code § 31–19–5–1(a). However, the statutory authority governing the Registry “does not apply if, on or before the date the child's mother executes a consent to the child's adoption, the child's mother discloses the name and address of the putative father to the attorney or agency that...

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