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157903 - In re LMB, Minor

In re LMB, Minor

 

 

_____________________________

 

 

Prospective Adoptive Parents,

 

Liisa Speaker

 

Petitioners-Appellants,

 

v

(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)

 

 

(Wayne – Dingell, C.)

 

Putative Father,

 

 

 

Respondent-Appellee.

 

Summary

This case concerns the interplay of the Adoption Code and the Paternity Act. The respondent parents were never married and had spent only a few days together before the subject child was born. Respondent father initially went along with respondent mother’s idea of placing the child for adoption, but later changed his mind after the child was placed with petitioners, the prospective adoptive parents. The circuit court denied petitioners’ request for an order of adoption, terminated the child’s temporary placement with them, returned custody of the child to respondent mother, and restored her parental rights. While the adoption appeal was pending, a different circuit court, in respondent father’s paternity action, entered an order of filiation. The Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay of the adoption decision, and subsequently, in an unpublished opinion, dismissed the adoption appeal as moot. While petitioners’ first application for leave to appeal was pending in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, in Sarna v Healy (COA Docket No. 341211), reversed the circuit court’s order denying the intervening prospective adoptive parents’ motion for a stay of proceedings, holding that the circuit court had abused its discretion in refusing to stay the paternity action. The Sarna court also granted the intervening prospective adoptive parents’ motion for stay and instructed that the child be returned to their care pending the Supreme Court’s resolution of the adoption appeal and pending a decision after an evidentiary hearing regarding custody. By order of January 24, 2018, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals in this adoption case and remanded the case to that court for reconsideration in light of the Court of Appeals order in Sarna. On remand, the same Court of Appeals panel considered the Sarna order, but held that because Sarna had not vacated the order of filiation, petitioners’ appeal would be again dismissed as moot for the reasons stated in its earlier decision. The panel also remarked that it was bound to follow the Court of Appeals decision in In re MGR (COA Docket No. 338286), since the pertinent facts were the same. Because the respondent father had become LMB’s legal father, the Court of Appeals held that it was impossible to remand the adoption case for a determination of whether his rights should be terminated under Section 39 of the Adoption Code, MCL 710.39, which it found to be only applicable to putative fathers. The Supreme Court has directed oral argument on petitioners’ application for leave to appeal to address: (1) whether the Court of Appeals erred in determining that the circuit court’s decisions under Section 39 of the Adoption Code, MCL 710.39, were moot in light of the order of filiation that entered in the paternity action; and (2) whether In re MKK, 286 Mich App 546 (2009), should be overruled.  This case will be heard at the same session as In re MGR (Nos.157821-2). ​