In re Ivey, ___ N.C. App. ___, 810 S.E.2d 740 (2018)

Held: 
Affirmed
  • Relevant Timeline and Facts:
    • 8/31/2016: infant born
    • 9/1/2016: mother signs Consent to Adoption, which includes language regarding 7-day time period to revoke and to whom the revocation must be sent, and is notarized with the certification “to the best of [the notary’s] knowledge and belief…”
    • 9/14/2016: mother’s attorney delivers letter to prospective adoptive parents revoking consent and stating she never received a copy of the consent document
    • 9/29/2016: mother received copy of the consent document from her medical file at the hospital
    • 10/3/2016: adoption petition filed
    • 10/4/2016: mother files revocation with the person designated in the consent - the clerk of superior court
    • 11/15/2016: district court enters order in a consolidated declaratory judgment action seeking declaration that the consent is invalid and the adoption proceeding; the order dismisses the adoption proceeding after finding (based on evidence presented) that the mother did not receive a copy of the consent document until 9/29/2016 and concluding the consent statute requires a copy of the document be left with the person consenting and that mother's revocation was timely when she filed it with the designated person within 7 days of receiving her copy of the consent document
  • Holding in case of first impression: G.S. 48-3-605 requires that an original or copy of a signed consent to adoption be provided to the parent who has signed the document, and the 7-day time period to revoke the consent under G.S. 48-3-608 does not begin to run until the parent who signed the consent is provided with an original or copy of the written consent.
  • In reaching this holding, the court of appeals looked to various statutes governing adoptions and cited various cases to discuss its standard of review. Issues of statutory construction are reviewed de novo. A statute that is clear on its fact must be enforced as written. The plain and definite meaning of clear and unambiguous text must be given, especially in the context of an adoption, which is purely a statutory creation. Every word of a statute is given effect as it is presumed the legislature carefully chose each word used. A fundamental rule of statutory construction requires that statutes in pari materia are construed together and compared with each other.
  • The court of appeals looked to four statutes when determining the consent is effectuated when the consenting parent receives  an original or copy of the signed consent, which provides the parent with the necessary information to revoke her or her consent:
    • The procedures for consent under G.S. 48-3-605, which requires the consent be signed under oath and includes a certification by a notary with a statement that to the best of the notary’s knowledge of belief, the parent executing the consent has been given an original or copy of the fully executed consent.
    • G.S. 48-3-606 requires the consent contain the name of the person and address where the notice of revocation may be sent.
    • G.S. 48-3-608 allows for the revocation of the consent within 7 days of its execution and requires the written revocation be delivered “to the person specified in the consent.”
    • The statutory purposes at G.S. 48-1-100 are to protect minors from unnecessary separation from their original parents and to protect biological parents from ill-advised decisions to relinquish a child or consent to the child’s adoption.
  • The finding by the trial court that mother did not receive an original or copy of the consent at the time it was signed does not contradict the certification by the notary, which was based on the notary’s “knowledge and belief.” It is possible that the notary believed or to the best of his knowledge thought the consent was left with the mother without any actual knowledge of that fact and that no document had in fact been delivered to mother.

 

Category:
Adoption of a Minor Child
Stage:
Revocation
Topic:
Timing
Tags:
Click on a term below for additional case summaries tagged with the same term.