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In re I.J.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 8, 2015

In re the Matter of: I.J., Child, T.M., Appellant/Intervenor,
v.
L.D. and J.D., Appellees/Petitioners.

Appeal from the Noble Circuit Court; The Honorable G. David Laur, Judge; 57C01-1403-AD-5

Attorney for Appellant Michele Rene Igney Kendallville, Indiana

Attorney for Appellees Michael M. Yoder Kendallville, Indiana

May, Judge.

[1] T.M. appeals following the adoption of I.J., asserting the court erred when it denied his motions for genetic testing and to intervene in the adoption proceedings. We reverse.

Facts and Procedural History

[2] On March 21, 2014, I.J. was born to Ka.J. (Mother), who was married to Ke.J. Mother gave I.J. to L.D. and J.D. (Adoptive Parents)[1] and, on March 24, they filed a petition to adopt I.J. Included with their adoption petition were affidavits of consent from Mother and Ke.J.

[3] On April 3, T.M. told the court he believed he was I.J.'s biological father. T.M. registered with the putative father registry on April 15. Adoptive Parents served the petition for adoption on T.M. on May 19. The trial court appointed counsel for T.M., and he filed his motion to contest adoption on June 17.

[4] On August 12, T.M. filed a motion for genetic paternity testing. Adoptive Parents objected. On September 23, the trial court denied T.M.'s motions to contest I.J.'s adoption and to obtain genetic paternity testing in a brief order that contained no explanation for the denials. T.M. filed a motion to correct error, which the trial court denied in an order that stated:

Court considers Motion to Correct Errors and finds as follows:
1. To qualify as a putative father who is entitled to receive notice of an adoption, registration, pursuant to IC 31-19-5-12(a) (2) (A) must have occurred earlier than the date of the filing of the petition for the child's adoption. While counsel for [T.M.] argues that the putative father registration was done within thirty (30) days of the filing of the petition for adoption, IC 31-19-5-12 only refers to "thirty (30) days after the child's birth, " under subsection 1. Subsection 2 (A) is the applicable portion of the statute which provides "the earlier of the date of filing of a petition for adoption." Since the purpose of the statute is for putative fathers to receive a notice of filing of a Petition for Adoption, the filing of registration after the adoption petition is filed (the date notices are sent out by the Clerk to parties), makes no sense. For counsel's position to be valid, the "thirty (30) days" language would appear in Section (a) if it were intended to apply to Sections 1 and 2 of the statute.
2. In the instant case, the Petition for Adoption was filed on March 24, 2014, but putative father registration was not filed until April 15, 2014, a date after the petition was filed. Thus, no notice of the filing of the petition for adoption is required and, pursuant to IC 31-19-5-18, this failure to timely register is a waiver constituting an irrevocable implied consent to the child's adoption.
3. Since [T.M.]'s consent is implied, he cannot intervene and contest the adoption. (Appellant's Br. at 16.)

[5] The same day the court issued that order, T.M. filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied in an order that provided:

The Court examines the Motion for Reconsideration filed on October 14, 2014 and finds ...

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