Sunday, December 8, 2013

Adoption of Kelsey S. case brief

Adoption of Kelsey S. case brief summary
823 P.2d 1216 (1992)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Petitioner father appealed from the judgment of the California court of appeal, which affirmed a trial court's ruling that petitioner was not a presumed father, and found by a bare preponderance of the evidence that the child's best interest required termination of petitioner's parental rights.

CASE FACTS
Petitioner, father of a child born out of wedlock, sought custody of his child. The trial court awarded temporary custody of the child to its mother and ordered the mother to live with the child in a shelter for unwed mothers. The trial court ruled that petitioner was not a presumed father within the meaning of Cal. Civ. Code § 7004(a)(4). The trial court found by a bare preponderance of the evidence that the child's best interest required termination of petitioner's parental rights. The intermediate appellate court affirmed the judgment.

DISCUSSION
  • On appeal, the court recognized that Cal. Civ. Code § 7004(a)(4) did not provide petitioner presumed father status based on his unsuccessful attempts to obtain custody over the mother's objection. 
  • The court reversed judgment, however, holding that § 7004(a) violated petitioner's equal protection and due process rights to the extent that it allowed a mother unilaterally to preclude her child's biological father from becoming a presumed father and thereby allowed the state to terminate his parental rights on nothing more than a showing of the child's best interest.

CONCLUSION
The court reversed the judgment terminating petitioner father's parental rights to his child, holding that the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process required that petitioner be allowed to withhold his consent to his child's adoption and therefore that his parental rights could not be terminated absent a showing of his unfitness.


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