Interstate adoption can be complicated, different states have different laws regarding adoptions. In Alabama, a new court ruling issued by the Alabama Civil Court of Appeals on January 10 just altered the future of interstate adoption cases. Like all adoption cases, the parties involved have their names sealed, the name of the case is B.V. v. J.M. Here is a brief summary of what this case means:
The case involves a prospective adoptive couple from Alabama, and the alleged biological father from Texas. On March 22, 2018, the adoptive parents commenced an action in the Calhoun County Probate Court; seeking to adopt a child from Texas. On March 27, 2018, the couple amended their adoption petition to indicate the biological father had initiated a paternity and custody action relating to the child in question. On May 2, 2018, the father made a limited appearance in the adoption action, he was seeking to dismiss the action of adoption asserting that the Alabama court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the adoption under the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA). The father presented the Alabama court a copy of a filed complaint on March 7th, 2018, in the District Court of Hays County in Texas. The Father wanted the adjudication of his paternity and be awarded custody of the child. The Alabama court denied his motion to dismiss, citing that the biological father had impliedly consented to the adoption under Alabama law. The Father filed a notice of appeal on April 8, 2019.
The Court’s Holdings
The Alabama Civil Court of Appeals had three primary holdings. They are as follows:
- The trial court’s interlocutory order cannot support an Appeal.
- The court held that since the child’s significant connection was established in Texas as by the biological father on March 7, 2018. Pursuant to the Paternal Kidnapping Prevention Act, the child’s home state is Texas.
- The Alabama Court lacks jurisdiction since the child’s significant connection and home state were established in Texas.
How does this impact Interstate Adoptions in Alabama?
Let’s focus on the second and third holdings. What does that mean for future interstate adoptions? Since the biological father filed his complaint on March 7 in 2018. This was technically the first legal action taken in regard to the custody dispute. According to the Paternal Kidnapping Prevention Act (Or PKPA), a custody dispute takes place within the state the child has a significant connection to. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has interpreted this to mean that in an issue between two states attempting to establish a significant connection to the child in question, the party first to file in their respective state wins the jurisdiction battle.
In other words, adoptive parents are put at a huge disadvantage when it comes to contested interstate adoptions. For example, a couple from Alabama wishes to adopt a child from Georgia once the biological mother gives birth, the mother agrees; the biological father, on the other hand, does not want to give the child up for adoption. Once the child is born, minutes after the birth, the father can immediately file for custody, establishing the “significant connection” under Alabama Civil Court of Appeals interpretation of the PKPA.
What can be done to remedy this issue?
This case is very likely to be appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, the issue may be resolved on appeal, but that can take months or years. What should couples seeking an interstate adoption do until this is resolved?
All adoptions are complex. Crossing state lines in the course of an adoption adds even greater layers of complexity. All the more reason to make sure you have competent team members advising you. Whether you’re an attorney trying to figure out this maze or an adoptive parent looking for guidance, please call us for a consultation.
My name is John Pierce Lemire. Born and raised in a Christian home in Alabama, I have always had a strong passion for justice. Spending most of my education being home schooled, I had the opportunity to compete in Speech and Debate Tournaments across the country during my high school years. The invaluable experience I gained through Speech and Debate led me to pursue a career as a lawyer. Having graduated high school, I am now a Junior studying a Bachelor of Science in Economics at Auburn University At Montgomery, with plans to attend Law School and become an attorney.