In re: Adoption of J. R. O. (Minor Child);
A.T. and M.H., Appellees-Petitioners. J.O. (Father), Appellant - Respondent, In the Matter of the Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of J.R.O. (Minor Child) and J.O. (Father), Appellant-Respondent
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee(s).
Court Case Nos. 82D04-1504-AD-36, 82D04-1606-JT-1016
Loretta H. Rush Chief Justice.
matter has come before the Indiana Supreme Court on a
petition to transfer jurisdiction, filed pursuant to Indiana
Appellate Rules 56(B) and 57, following the issuance of a
decision by the Court of Appeals. The Court has reviewed the
decision of the Court of Appeals, and the submitted record on
appeal, all briefs filed in the Court of Appeals, and all
materials filed in connection with the request to transfer
jurisdiction have been made available to the Court for
review. Each participating member has had the opportunity to
voice that Justice's views on the case in conference with
the other Justices, and each participating member of the
Court has voted on the petition.
duly advised, the Court DENIES the petition to transfer.
Slaughter, Goff, JJ., vote to deny transfer.
Chief Justice, dissenting.
don't quibble with the Court of Appeals' holding that
an oral motion may be enough to contest an adoption under
Indiana Code section 31-19-9-18(b) (2017). In re
J.R.O., 87 N.E.3d 37, 39, 42-43 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017). But
keeping that holding from making mischief in our trial courts
requires more guidance, which this Court should provide. I
thus respectfully dissent from the denial of transfer.
the trial court consolidated J.R.O.'s child in need of
services ("CHINS"), guardianship, and adoption
proceedings. The attorney representing J.R.O.'s father in
the CHINS case did not object to consolidation but did
orally object to the adoption petition.
Nineteen months later, the trial court found that the
father's consent to the adoption was irrevocably implied
for failing to contest the adoption with a
written motion. Another six months after
that, the court granted the adoption petition.
father appealed, arguing in part that the governing statute
does not require a written motion contesting an adoption. The
Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the trial court's
irrevocably implied consent finding and thus also its grant
of the adoption petition. See id. at 43-44.
reversals like this one upend nearly final adoptions as the
only way to protect parental rights at such a late stage. As
a result, they cannot provide the permanency that children
need. The better path is to protect the process and
parties' rights at an earlier and more appropriate time.
the best practice is for the objecting person to file a
written motion to contest the adoption.
See Ind. Code § 31-19-9-18(b). If the motion is
only oral, safeguards are needed.
thus grant transfer and emphasize that after an oral motion
contesting an adoption, the trial court should ensure that
(1) the motion is on the record, (2) the parties are present
or promptly notified of the motion, and (3) the
motion-including whose it is-is clearly reflected on the
chronological case summary ("CCS").
record is integral to effective appellate review. James
v. State, 716 N.E.2d 935, 941 (Ind. 1999) ("The
importance of making a record for appellate review cannot be
overemphasized."); see also Ind. Appellate Rule
50(A)(1). While an oral motion will rarely by itself supply a
complete record, it "may allow the trial judge an
opportunity to make a record sufficient for a reviewing
court." Brock v. State, 955 N.E.2d 195, 204 n.9
(Ind. 2011). So a trial court should respond to an oral
motion contesting an adoption by immediately developing the
record on that point-likely with an order recognizing the
motion. That did not happen here. Instead, the trial court
barely recognized the oral objection before moving on.
if parties are absent when an oral motion is made, the trial
court should ensure that they are notified that the adoption
is contested. Interested parties may be incarcerated or
otherwise unable to attend, as J.R.O.'s father was here.