Woodson v. Lee

Decision Date26 January 1953
Docket NumberNo. 4-9967,4-9967
Citation221 Ark. 517,254 S.W.2d 326
PartiesWOODSON v. LEE et ux.
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Talley & Owen and Dean R. Morley, Little Rock, for appellant.

Reece Caudle, Russellville, for appellees.

WARD, Justice.

John Bernerd Woodson here seeks reversal of an order of the Probate Court which granted adoption of his young son, John Bernerd, Jr., to the father and mother of his divorced wife and mother of the boy. In reaching the conclusion it did the Probate Court held, necessarily, that appellant had abandoned the boy for a period of six months before the petition for adoption was filed.

The only question before us is: Did appellant, under the facts in this case, so abandon his son? The more accurate statement of the question is: Does the weight of the evidence in this case sustain the finding of the trial court on this point?

Our judgment is that the trial court's finding is not supported by the evidence. The law under which the trial court assumed jurisdiction and proceeded in this instance is § 56-106 of Ark.Stats., the pertinent part of which is set out below:

'Consent of parents or guardian.--(a) The adoption of a child shall not be permitted without the written consent verified by affidavit, of its parents or parent, if living, except as follows:

'(b) The consent of a parent or parents may be dispensed with if the court, upon competent evidence, makes one of the following findings:

'(I) The parent has abandoned the child for more than six (6) months next preceding the filing of the petition.'

The facts are substantially as follows:

Appellant and his wife, Juanita Lee Woodson, were divorced on November 22, 1948. The divorce decree gave the custody of their son to the mother with rights of visitation to the father and approved a property settlement previously made by the parties. The property settlement provided for the wife to pay the husband $10,000, for the husband to convey to the wife his interest in certain described lots and a motor business in Russellville and in a partnership business in Morrilton, and for him to convey to her his interest in their two bank accounts and their household furniture. The settlement also provided that the mother would be responsible for the maintenance, care and upkeep of the child during his minority. In a signed statement attached to the property settlement appellee, D. W. Lee, bound himself to the fulfillment of the obligation of the mother regarding financial support of the child.

It appears that in October, 1949, after the divorce decree in November, 1948, the mother filed a petition to adopt her son but on March 31, 1950 a substituted petition for adoption was filed by appellees, alleging appellant had abandoned his son. The period of abandonment was not mentioned. In the latter proceeding the mother entered her consent for adoption as provided by statute.

After the divorce appellant returned to his former home in Memphis where he has at all times been substantially employed. It is not disputed that he visited his son at Russellville regularly every two weeks until sometime in March, 1949. Appellant states he was forced to discontinue these visits because of the attitude of his former wife. She admits that she objected to his visits on one occasion when he appeared unshaven and poorly dressed and, as she thought, under the influence of liquor. On two other occasions she also objected over the telephone. There is in evidence a copy of a letter, dated December 11, 1948, she wrote to appellant's sister in which she stated she didn't want his father and mother to visit the boy during Christmas.

Appellant states positively that he never at any time intended to abandon his son; that he sent him Christmas presents; and that he ceased trying to continue his visits, on advice of his attorneys, in order to avoid trouble and in an effort to effect peaceable arrangements. The fact that appellant had engaged counsel to preserve his rights of visitation granted by the decree of divorce is evidenced by the introduction in evidence of a copy of a letter, dated April 12, 1949, written by his attorneys of record to the attorney representing Mrs. Woodson. In this letter, among other things, it was stated that appellant was entitled to see his son, and the addressee was asked to reply regarding the matter. This letter was answered two days later, stating advice would be given as soon as certain information was...

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26 cases
  • Pender v. McKee
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • June 19, 1979
    ...in the sense of the adoption statutes, means conduct which evinces a settled purpose to forego all parental duties. Woodson v. Lee, 221 Ark. 517, 254 S.W.2d 326. Permitting his child to remain for a time undisturbed in the care of others does not constitute such an abandonment. Woodson v. L......
  • Harper v. Caskin
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • April 23, 1979
    ...relation of allegiance or fidelity; to quit; to forsake'." See, Walthall v. Hime, 236 Ark. 689, 368 S.W.2d 77 (1963); Woodson v. Lee, 221 Ark. 517, 254 S.W.2d 326. See also, Hyde, Ex'rs. v. Hyde, 240 Ark. 463, 400 S.W.2d 288. Both Walthall and Woodson were adoption cases, based upon our ado......
  • In re Adoption Baby Boy B.
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • April 12, 2012
    ...it should be construed in support of the right of the natural parent.’Id. at 62–63, 702 S.W.2d at 13–14 (citing Woodson v. Lee, 221 Ark. 517, 254 S.W.2d 326 (1953) (quoting In re Cordy, 169 Cal. 150, 146 P. 532 (Cal.App.1914)). We have also recognized that changes made by amendments may be ......
  • Martin v. Martin
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • May 2, 1994
    ...to a natural parent's rights in In The Matter of the Adoption of Glover, 288 Ark. 59, 702 S.W.2d 12 (1986) (citing Woodson v. Lee, 221 Ark. 517, 254 S.W.2d 326 (1953) (quoting In re Cordy, 169 Cal. 150, 146 P. 532 ... the power of the court in adoption proceedings to deprive a parent of her......
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