After review from the House of Representatives of the Indiana legislature, the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 27, was returned to the Senate with the House’s proposed changes, for approval before a final vote. Senate Bill 27 addresses some issues that may arise during adoption proceedings to streamline the judicial process, and protect the natural parent’s constitutional rights to raise his or her child.
Under current Indiana law, if third parties file a Petition for Adoption of a Minor child, while a Petition to Establish Paternity in the natural Father is also pending, the matters must be consolidated and heard by the adoption court. This clearly contemplates the adoption of a minor child who is a newborn or young child. The proposed legislation eliminates the requirement that it be a Petition to Establish Paternity, but rather just if a paternity case is pending anywhere. In Indiana, once paternity is established, that court has continuing jurisdiction until the child is an adult. Currently, the cases where children whose paternity was established years ago, and are now the subject of adoption (possibly a step parent adoption), fell through the cracks of the mandatory consolidation provision. This proposed change will help to fill the gap so that there are not two courts with competing jurisdiction, and so that the natural Father can be joined into the adoption action since paternity had already been established.
Another important change that Senate Bill 27 proposes is that the adoption court may not grant an adoption if there are any appeals, or potential appeals, of any matter involving paternity, custody, or parental rights of the child. Under the current law, the adoption court may not grant an adoption only if an appeal is pending regarding the termination of the parent-child relationship. However, the change proposed would change the law to include the time period in which an appeal could be filed (30 days after the final order in a termination of parental rights case, paternity case, or otherwise). Additionally, the proposed change includes a broader scope of the appellate process, to include the time in which to file a Petition to Transfer the matter to the Indiana Supreme Court or US Supreme Court (30 days and 90 days respectively), and while same is pending a decision to take the case. This proposed change helps to fill the gaps in between when an appeal could be filed, versus it has been filed, and would place the adoption court on hold until all appeals are conclusively exhausted, allowing for the natural parent to have every legal opportunity to be heard before the adoption is granted.
We hope that you have found this information to be helpful in understanding some new proposed legislation and the effects it could have on the adoption process, should it be passed into law. This is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions or concerns about your specific case, CIYOU & DIXON, P.C. can help evaluate your specific case. This blog post was written by Attorney, Lori B. Schmeltzer.