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In re Adoption and Paternity of K.A.W.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 20, 2018

In Re the Adoption and Paternity of K.A.W. J.R.C., Appellant-Respondent,
v.
J.C. and D.C., Appellees-Petitioners

          Appeal from the Harrison Circuit Court The Honorable John T. Evans, Judge Trial Court Cause Nos. 31C01-1602-AD-5 31C01-1512-JP-35

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Joseph Leon Payne Payne Law Office, LLC Austin, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Matthew J. McGovern Anderson, Indiana

          Baker, Judge.

         [¶1] J.R.C. (Putative Father) appeals the trial court's order dismissing his petition to establish paternity of K.A.W. (Child) and granting the petition to adopt Child that had been filed by J.C. and D.C. (Adoptive Parents). Putative Father argues that the trial court erred by finding that his consent to the adoption was irrevocably implied and by granting the adoption petition without a statutorily required affidavit. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

         Facts

         [¶2] Child was born to D.W. (Mother) on April 15, 2014. Putative Father has been incarcerated since before Child's birth. Mother has also been incarcerated periodically throughout Child's life; Child has always lived with Adoptive Parents, who are relatives of Mother. On December 15, 2015, Putative Father filed a petition to establish paternity; shortly thereafter, he filed a motion for a DNA test.

         [¶3] On February 8, 2016, Adoptive Parents filed a petition to adopt Child. The trial court ordered the paternity and adoption causes consolidated on April 19, 2016. In July 2016, the trial court granted Putative Father's motion for a DNA test. On November 17, 2016, the DNA test report was filed with the court indicating a 99.99% probability that Putative Father is Child's biological father.

         [¶4] On December 9, 2016, Putative Father filed a motion to contest the adoption. Mother consented to the adoption on August 7, 2017. Thereafter, Adoptive Parents asked the trial court to find that Putative Father's consent to the adoption was irrevocably implied. On August 26, 2017, Putative Father registered as a putative father of Child.

         [¶5] On August 30, 2017, the trial court entered an order staying Putative Father's petition to establish paternity, finding that Putative Father's consent to the adoption was irrevocably implied. The trial court found that Father "has never registered as [Child's] putative father. Thus, he was not registered at the time [Adoptive Parents'] petition to adopt [Child] was filed, which is the relevant deadline." Appealed Order p. 2. Further, the failure to timely register with the putative father registry "constitutes an irrevocably implied consent" to the adoption. Id.

         [¶6] In the final adoption decree, which was issued on November 7, 2017, the trial court found as follows with respect to Putative Father:

37. [Putative Father] is incarcerated by the Indiana Department of Correction[] in Branchville, Indiana. He has been in custody for the last three years.
38. [Putative Father] has used illegal drugs "off and on" his entire adult life. At the time of his arrest he was found to be operating a methamphetamine "lab" in the [Putative Father's] home. His most recent charges of possession of methamphetamine arose while he was on probation having been convicted [of] possessing methamphetamine.
39. [Putative Father] has never seen [Child] in person. [Putative Father] has never spoken to [Child]. Since this case was initiated, [Putative Father] has sent two cards to [Child], a ...

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