Articles Posted in Adoption

There are certain circumstances in which a California court will allow a person to adopt a child, even where it is without the consent of one of the birth parents. The state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently considered a rather extreme (not to mention scary!) example of the type of situation in which such an adoption may be permitted in In re Adoption of Janelle M.

RM and BB married in 2002 and the couple had a child – Janelle – three years later. They eventually separated in 2008 and BB filed for divorce, claiming that RM had physically and emotionally abused her over the course of their marriage. One month later, RM’s friend allegedly told BB that RM was plotting to have her murdered. In addition to contacting the local police, BB obtained a restraining order, moved to a confidential location and had RM’s scheduled visits with Janelle discontinued. Janelle was three years old when she last saw her father in 2008. He was jailed the same year and later convicted for solicitation of murder.

The couple’s divorce was finalized in 2009 and a court granted BB sole legal and physical custody over her daughter. RM, who was released from prison the following year, was not allowed visitation rights. He was also not ordered to pay child support until April 2012.

BB married RB in November 2011. According to the Court, RB supported Janelle “financially and emotionally” for at least two years prior to the marriage. BB’s restraining order against RM was renewed the next month.

RM nevertheless sought visitation with Janelle shortly thereafter. He and BB attended family court mediation in early 2012. The mediator recommended that BB retain custody and that psychological evaluations and clinical assessments of RM, BB and Janelle be conducted to determine whether RM posed a risk of harm to his daughter.

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Hallelujah! Sometimes courts get it right and the Baby Vanessa case is one of those cases. This is hopefully the end of a three year custody battle over a two-year-old girl that involved the rights of adoptive parents, fathers’ rights and the best interest of the child. Vanessa’s birth mother, Andrea Conley, placed Vanessa for adoption with Stacey Doss without the knowledge or consent of the infant’s father, Benjamin Mills, in violation of his parental rights.

Conley and Mills had a long and problematic relationship that produced two other daughters who live with Mills’ mother, their foster parent. All of Mills four children live in foster care. Mills, who has multiple domestic violence convictions, assaulted Conley before Vanessa’s birth. Prior to the birth of Vanessa, Mills was arrested for beating, strangling and dragging Conley by the hair while she held one of their other children. Mills had been jailed in the past for domestic violence and child endangerment. Conley, for what appears to be good reason, did not want Mills to know about Vanessa and supported Vanessa’s adoption by Doss throughout the process.

And this has been a lengthy complicated legal process involving not simply a contest between the biological and adoptive parent, but jurisdictional issues between the state of Ohio where Mills lives and California where Doss lives. Doss, a self-employed single parent paid for all of her legal costs whereas taxpayers in both California and Ohio are footing the bill for Mills’ legal costs.

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