Here’s another of those cases you could hear about on the 6:00 news. Unmarried parents conceive child in Georgia. Mom’s mother runs Dad off, so he’s not there when the baby is born. Mom consents to adoption by parents in Madison County, Alabama. When Dad finds out about the adoption, he objects. The trial court in Madison County denies Dad’s contest of the adoption on the grounds that he didn’t maintain a significant relationship with the minor child and therefore that he impliedly consented to the adoption. The Court of Appeals reversed, in the case of K.W.J. v. J.W.B. and K.E.M.B., Case No. 2030805 (Ala. Civ. App. February 18, 2005).
Writing for a 3-2 majority, Judge Crawley wrote that Dad has “a justifiable excuse for failing to establish a relationship with the child — the adoptive parents did not wish to allow him to do so.”
In his dissent, Judge Murdock argued (with Judge Bryan concurring) that the trial court had made its own judgment on the basis of ore tenus evidence. “The record contains substantial evidence to support the trial court’s finding.”
We should not equate the filing of “court papers” and the taking of legal positions with the establishment of human relationships. A child can be abandoned just as surely when papers have been filed with a court as when they have not been. While those papers sit in a folder in a courthouse, children grow. They are read to and tucked in at night. They are nursed to health. They are taught. They are nurtured. They are loved. And they love back. And bonds are formed — but not with a biological father who has allowed himself to remain absent from the child’s life. See generally R.K. v. R.J., 843 So. 2d 774; Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U.S. 248, 77 L. Ed. 2d 614.