How Did This Case Get This Far?

This is the case of a cross-state-border adoption. D.B. and T.B. v. M.A., Cases No. 2050034 and 2050277 (Ala. Civ. App. May 26, 2006). It should never have happened. Let us all hope it’s finished now.

The father and mother both lived in Nebraska but were not married. When the child was four days old the mother placed the child in the physical custody of an adoptive couple from Alabama. Five days later the father learned for the first time that the adoption had occured, and that same day he filed notice of his intent to claim paternity and custody of the child.

At a subsequent Nebraska hearing attended by an attorney for the adoptive couple. the mother admitted that the father was the child’s biological father, the Nebraska court stated that it had jurisdiction, and after testimony, the Nebraska court awarded custody of the child to the father. Six days later the Nebraska court supplemented its order to find that aioption proceedings filed in Alabama would not be in the child’s best interests and should be dismissed.

The day after the Nebraska court supplemented its ruling, the father filed to enforce the Nebraska order in Alabama. The juvenile court declined jurisdiction, finding that jurisdiction lay in Nebraska, and it ordered the immediate transfer of the case to Nebraska. The adoptive couple appealed. The appeals court properly affirmed the juvenile court’s ruling, and presumably the child is with the natural father now.

Lee’s Note: My concern about this case is not with its eventual resolution but with the abuse to the child caused by the time it took to resolve it. The child was born January 21, 2004. The adoptive couple knew of the father’s paternity claim at least by March 17, 2004. Yet it was not until September 22, 2005, 17 months later, that the child actually returned to Nebraska to live with the father.

This poor child has now missed 19 months of critical early-life bonding time with his or her father. It’s embarrasing, and regrettable, that the child didn’t get returned to the father much sooner.

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