In re Adoption of Baby Boy, 233 N.C. App. 493 (2014)

  • Facts:  Birth mother signs a relinquishment before an adoption agency worker and a hospital notary the day after her child is born.  The adoption agency worker reads the relinquishment aloud, which states: “I, Amy Costin, being duly sworn, declare….” After being read the form, which included a 26 question questionnaire, birth mother signs the relinquishment in the presence of the notary.  The notary was present during the reading of the relinquishment and questionnaire and the birth mother’s signatures on those forms. The notary signed the acknowledgment. Eight days after signing the relinquishment, the birth mother texted the adoption agency worker that she changed her mind; however the adoption agency did not revoke the birth mother’s relinquishment because she did not provide written notice within 7 days as required by statute and specifically included in the relinquishment and questionnaire birth mother signed. The birth mother filed a motion to void her relinquishment, and the trial court determined the relinquishment was not valid because it was not signed under oath and did not specify the infant’s gender as required by the statute. As a result, the trial court granted birth mother’s petition to declare her relinquishment void.  The adoption agency and adoption petitioners appealed.

  • G.S. 48-3-702(a) requires a relinquishment to be signed and acknowledged under oath. Although the court stressed the seriousness of properly administering oaths and urging notaries to be diligent in performing that duty, it found an oath is a ministerial duty that may be administered by a person without official authority to administer an oath so long as a certifying officer is present and assents to the administration. This means a notary need only certify that he or she witnessed the signor make a vow of truthfulness, which could include any form of the word swear.  In this case the notary was present when birth mother was read the relinquishment and signed the document that contained the language “duly sworn.”
  • The failure to include baby boy’s gender in the relinquishment was not fatal as the relinquishment was executed in substantial compliance with the law pursuant to G.S. 48-3-702(a).
Adoption of a Minor Child
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