Thursday, September 1, 2016
Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case involving a birth mother's consent and claims of duress. It looks like a wonderful resource to use in an Adoption Law or Family Law class:
The issues presented:
- When deciding whether a parent has voluntarily relinquished custody of a child, is it imperative that all steps be taken to ensure that the relinquishment was given without duress?
- Is there a fiduciary relationship between a parent placing a child for adoption and an adoption agency in which the agency has the duty to protect the parent?
The facts according to the Ohio Supreme Court's Oral Argument preview:
On March 15, 2014, Caroline Stearns called Adoption by Gentle Care, a Columbus adoption agency, to inquire about their services. Pregnant and approaching her April due date, Stearns spoke with a Gentle Care social worker about her options. Stearns was living in Dublin with her five children and her boyfriend, Jeff Griffith. Stearns had become pregnant by another man, and she indicated Griffith told her she couldn’t bring the new baby into the home because he wasn’t the father. Griffith also isn’t the father of Stearns’ other children.
Stearns and the social worker met at a restaurant on March 27, 2014, to further discuss adoption. The social worker provided pamphlets and forms concerning various types of adoption. Stearns went into the hospital on March 31 for a scheduled cesarean section and gave birth to a boy, identified as C.C.S. The next day, she left the hospital and contacted Gentle Care to set a time to sign the adoption paperwork for a permanent surrender of the child.
Two Gentle Care social workers met with Stearns at her home on April 4 to complete the paperwork, and most of the discussion was recorded by the social workers. Stearns signed the permanent surrender agreement, which stated that all of her rights as a parent would end by signing the document. She also signed an “affidavit of relinquishment,” which noted her right to an attorney before making the decision, her right at that time to refuse to place the child for adoption, and that the surrender was “final and irrevocable.” Gentle Care then placed the child with an adoptive family.
Around April 12 or 13, Stearns contacted her Gentle Care social worker asking for her son back and to revoke the surrender agreement. Gentle Care denied the request. She then petitioned the Franklin County Probate Court to withdraw her consent to the adoption. When the adopting parents became aware of her desire to have her child returned, they gave him back to Gentle Care. The boy was placed in foster care.
Finally, the Ohio Court of Appeals decision can be found here.