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Court Case Record S.P. v. J.R. and R.R. 2150243 UID(3e7e)


S.P. v. J.R. and R.R. Court Case Record

Court Case Number: 2150243


 
Case Number2150243
Case TitleS.P. v. J.R. and R.R.
Case TypeCivil
StateAlabama, AL
County
CourtCourt of Civil Appeals of Alabama.
Court Address
Phone
Field Date4/1/2016
Close Date

Parties

CounselNameType
S.P.Appellee/Petitioner
J.R.Appellant/Defendant
R.R.Appellant/Defendant
Details
S.P. (“the father”) appeals from a judgment of the Baldwin Probate Court (“the probate court”) denying his contest to the adoption of his child, B.P. (“the child”), by J.R. (“the stepfather”), the husband of the child's mother, R.R. (“the mother”). We reverse the probate court's judgment.
Procedural History
On June 9, 2015, the stepfather filed in the probate court a petition to adopt the child. On July 22, 2015, the father filed an answer to the petition, contesting the adoption. After a trial, the probate court entered an order on November 24, 2015, finding that the father had impliedly consented to the adoption of the child under Ala.Code 1975, § 26–10A–9(a)(3), by “not otherwise maintaining a significant parental relationship with the [child] for a period of six months.” The next day, the probate court entered a judgment granting the stepfather's petition to adopt the child. On December 7, 2015, the father filed his notice of appeal.
Discussion
On appeal, the father argues that there was not clear and convincing evidence indicating that he had impliedly consented to the child's adoption.
“A finding that a parent has impliedly consented to an adoption must be established by clear and convincing evidence. See § 26–10A–25(b)(2)[, Ala.Code 1975] (stating that a probate court shall grant a final decree of adoption if clear and convincing evidence establishes that consent has been obtained). The record must contain
“ ‘ “ [e]vidence that, when weighed against evidence in opposition, will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a firm conviction as to each essential element of the claim and a high probability as to the correctness of the conclusion. Proof by clear and convincing evidence requires a level of proof greater than a preponderance of the evidence or the substantial weight of the evidence, but less than beyond a reasonable doubt.” ‘
“L.M. v. D.D.F., 840 So.2d 171, 179 (Ala.Civ.App.2002)(quoting § 6–11–20(b)(4), Ala.Code 1975).
“Section 26–10A–9(a)[, Ala.Code 1975,] provides, in part:
“ ‘A consent or relinquishment required by Section 26–10A–7[, Ala.Code 1975,] may be implied by any of the following acts of a parent:
“ ‘(1) Abandonment of the adoptee. Abandonment includes, but is not limited to, the failure of the father, with reasonable knowledge of the pregnancy, to offer financial and/or emotional support for a period of six months prior to the birth.
“ ‘·
“ ‘(3) Knowingly leaving the adoptee with others without provision for support and without communication, or not otherwise maintaining a significant parental relationship with the adoptee for a period of six months.’
“· As this court has previously explained:
“ ‘Consistent with settled rules of statutory construction, we must interpret the general phrase “not otherwise maintaining a significant parental relationship” in this context with reference to the specified circumstance listed, i.e., knowingly leaving an adoptee both without support and without communication. Cf. Foster v. Dickinson, 293 Ala. 298, 300, 302 So.2d 111, 113 (1974) (“The words, ‘or otherwise’ in law when used as a general phrase following an enumeration of particulars are commonly interpreted in a restricted sense as referring to such other matters as are kindred to the classes before mentioned, receiving ejusdem generis interpretation.”).
“ ‘·
“ ‘· [I]t must be remembered that the legislature of Alabama has seen fit to mandate that a [parent's] consent to a proposed adoption of [his or her] child shall be required and that that consent may be deemed implied under subsection (a)(3) of § 26–10A–9 only from the existence of a six-month period during which that [parent] has “[k]nowingly le[ft] the adoptee with others without provision for support and without communication” or has similarly failed to act to maintain a significant parental relationship.’
“S.A. [v. M.T.O.], 143 So.3d [799] at 804 [ (Ala.Civ.App.2013) ].”
J.D.S. v. J.W.L., [Ms. 2140826, Jan. 29, 2016] ––– So.3d ––––, –––– (Ala.Civ.App.2016).
In the present case, the evidence indicates that the child was born on January 31, 2011, to the mother and the father, who were married at the time of the child's birth. The mother and the father divorced in December 2011, and the divorce judgment provided that the father would exercise supervised visitation with the child twice a month. The father was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $200 per month beginning on January 19, 2013. The mother testified that, after the parties divorced, the father had seen the child once a month until December 2013. According to the father, however, he had visited the child at least twice a month until the summer of 2014. The mother testified that the father had visited the child only five times in 2014, the last of which was in October 2014. The evidence indicates that the father voluntarily enrolled in an out-of-state drug-rehabilitation facility in January 2015, where he had remained for two months. The mother testified that the father had
The father testified that he had paid some child support beginning in January 2013 and that, since October 2014, he had paid consistently. The mother, however, testified that she did not think she had received any child support in 2014. The evidence was undisputed that the child's paternal grandfather had deposited $200 per month into an account that the mother had opened for the child from January 2015 until the mother had instructed him to no longer deposit the money and had closed the account in July 2015. After the father was released from prison in November 2015, he sent $800 to the mother, but she refused to accept it. The evidence indicated that the paternal grandparents own their own business, that the father had worked at their business periodically, and that the paternal grandparents had kept the father on the business's payroll even during times when the father was not actually working for that business. In addition, the evidence indicated that the child had been covered und
In J.D.S., this court reasoned: