Kathleen Egan just won an appeal restoring our client’s parental rights. Her work on the appeal reversed a trial court’s decision allowing an adoption to proceed without our client’s consent. On appeal, Kathleen showed that the petitioner did not meet their burden of proof with sufficient evidence to go forward with the adoption.
A large part of our work involves protecting parental rights. In adoptions, parental rights can be impacted when someone such as a stepparent tries to adopt a child without the consent of a parent.
Adoptions without consent of a parent are permitted in limited circumstances. Those circumstances include:
- If the parent willfully fails, refuses, or neglects to contribute to the support of the child for a period of 12 out of the last 14 months immediately preceding the filing of the petition for adoption
- If the parent fails to establish or maintain a substantial and positive relationship with a minor for a period of 12 months out of the 14 months immediately preceding the filing of the petition for adoption
The person filing the adoption (the petitioner) has the burden of proving the failure of the parent. Because adoptions impact parental rights, the petitioner's burden of proof is by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a higher legal standard than most family law cases.
The appeal was necessary because at trial the judge found that the adoption could proceed without the consent of our client. Adoptions without consent are complex, high-conflict cases. Sometimes a parent did not pay child support, but they had a reason for not paying. Sometimes a parent did not have visitation with their child, but there was something outside of their control prohibiting them from having visitation. Because of our reputation for success handling adoption without consent cases, other attorneys refer their clients to us when their clients’ parental rights are on the line and the client needs a lawyer who can take the case all the way, from trial to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.