Stepfather Adoption in Baldwin County, Alabama Reversed

In the case of S.P v. J.R. and R.R., from Baldwin County, Alabama, the mother and father divorced in December 2011, one month before the child was born. The father only saw the child once a month up until December 2013 and only five times in 2014. The father was enrolled in an out-of-state drug program for two months in 2015 and was incarcerated from April 2015 until November 2015. Upon the father’s release from prison, he contacted the mother with no response.

The child’s paternal grandfather deposited $200 a month into an account designated for the child that opened by the mother. Additionally, after the father’s release, the father attempted to pay the mother $800 but the mother refused to accept the money.

In June of 2015, the stepfather filed a petition in probate to adopt the child. After the father filed an answer, the court on November 24, 2015 entered an order granting the adoption to the stepfather. The court found that the father “not otherwise maintaining a significant parental relationship with the [child] for a period of six months” decided that the father had impliedly consented to the adoption.

To support a finding that a parent has impliedly consented to an adoption, the finding must be established by clear and convincing evidence. The child’s paternal grandfather testified that the father gave him the power of attorney and instructed him to pay the child support on the father’s behalf.

The court dismissed the mother’s argument that the father sent a text message stating he would sign over his rights for $10,000. The Supreme Court held “we cannot conclude that the isolated text message is clear and convincing evidence of implied consent in light of the other evidence in this case indicating the father’s intent to maintain contact with and supports the child.” The court reversed the judgment on the grounds that the evidence in the case did not establish the necessary requirements for the judgment of the probate court.

Unless a birth parent’s parental rights have been terminated due to abandonment, neglect or another valid reason, for an adoption by a stepparent to occur, consent is required by the other birth parent. Without obvious consent, it can be rather tough to show that a parent impliedly consented with clear and convincing evidence. Although a text message offering $10,000 in exchange for parental rights is highly indicative of a lack interest in parental rights, it is not enough to trump the actions set forth by the father.

The father clearly shows an acceptance of his paternity by his offering of money to the mother and by him contesting the adoption. Regardless of the reasons for the text message, the father showed on multiple occasions’ actions that are not consistent to that of a father voluntarily relinquishing his role as the father.

If you are considering adopting a step-child or do not want to terminate your parental rights, contact Ingram Law LLC or Joseph A. Ingram at (205) 236-3997.. Mr. Ingram will discuss your decision with you.

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