In the matter of the adoption of B.H., a person under eighteen years of age.
C.S., Appellant. P.H. and A.D., Appellees,
District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Robert P.
Faust No. 162900039
J. Nelson, Alexandra Mareschal, and Lisa Lokken, Attorneys
Jessica S. Couser and Benjamin K. Lusty, Attorneys for
David N. Mortensen authored this Opinion, in which Judges
Michele M. Christiansen Forster and Kate Appleby concurred.
Although M.S. (Mother) and C.S. (Father) had been married
since 2008, Mother claimed that a man other than Father
(Purported Father) was the biological parent of B.H. (Child),
who was born in Montana in early 2016. Within one week of
Child's birth, Mother voluntarily relinquished her
parental rights and Child was placed into the custody of P.H.
and A.D (Adoptive Parents), who resided in Utah. Adoptive
Parents filed a petition for adoption in the State of Utah.
Father was served notice of the adoption proceedings and he
intervened in the action. After a bench trial, the district
court terminated Father's parental rights and finalized
the adoption. On appeal, Father argues that (1) the district
court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to terminate his
parental rights and (2) the district court erred in
finalizing the adoption because the Interstate Compact on the
Placement of Children (ICPC) request form, filled out by Mother, was
materially deficient in that it listed Purported Father,
rather than Father, as the parent of Child. We conclude that
the district court had jurisdiction, but set aside the
adoption decree and remand for additional findings and
conclusions on compliance with the ICPC.
Child was born in Montana on January 30, 2016. Less than one
week after Child's birth, Mother and Purported Father
voluntarily relinquished their parental rights and consented
to place Child for adoption with Adoptive Parents, who
resided in Utah. Child was discharged from the hospital and
placed into the custody of Adoptive Parents on February 5,
2016. Adoptive Parents remained in Montana until an ICPC
request form 100A, listing Mother and Purported Father as
Child's parents, was approved by all the required ICPC
administrators on February 9, 2016. The record indicates that Adoptive Parents
transported Child to Utah the next day, on February 10, 2016.
Adoptive Parents initiated adoption proceedings by filing a
petition (Adoption Petition) on January 26, 2016. On February
10, 2016, Adoptive Parents filed a Motion for Temporary
Custody of Child and indicated that they had "recently
learned that [Mother] is still technically married to
[Father]" and Adoptive Parents were "working on
determining paternity and/or providing notice to address any
legal interests [of Father]." The district court granted
temporary custody of Child to Adoptive Parents the next day
(Temporary Custody Order).
On February 22, 2016, Adoptive Parents sent notice of the
adoption proceedings to Father. Father intervened two weeks
Meanwhile, Father filed for divorce from Mother in Montana on
March 14, 2016. As part of the divorce, the Montana court
ordered genetic testing of Father and Child, which determined
that Father was Child's biological parent.
On June 29, 2016, Adoptive Parents petitioned the district
court-in the adoption proceedings-to terminate Father's
parental rights (Termination Petition). The district court
held a bench trial on the Termination Petition on July 31,
2017. After the trial, but before ruling on Father's
parental rights, the district court ordered the parties to
file a memorandum addressing whether the court had
jurisdiction to terminate Father's parental rights. The
district court concluded that it had jurisdiction under Utah
Code section 78B-6-105, terminated Father's parental
rights, and finalized the adoption.
AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Father raises two issues. First, he contends that the
district court erred in concluding that it had jurisdiction
to terminate his parental rights. Issues concerning
jurisdiction are reviewed for correctness and we grant no
deference to the district court's conclusion. State
v. Wynn, 2017 UT App 211, ¶ 11, 407 P.3d 1113;
see also State v. Nicholls, 2006 UT 76, ¶ 3,
148 P.3d 990; In re A.J.B., 2017 UT App 237, ¶
12, 414 P.3d 552.
Second, Father contends that the district court erred in
finalizing the adoption, because the ICPC was not complied
with. "'The proper interpretation and application of
a statute is a question of law which we review for
correctness . . . .'" In re P.F.B., 2008 UT
App 271, ¶ 10, 191 P.3d 49 (omission in ...