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In re Adoption of K.J.C.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

March 15, 2016

In the Matter of the Adoption of K.J.C.; K.B.C., and B.J.C., Petitioners and Appellees
v.
K.J.C., D.V.T. and the Executive Director of the Department of Human Service Department, State of North Dakota, Respondents, D.V.T., Appellant

Page 63

          Appeal from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable David W. Nelson, Judge.

         Charlotte J.S. Rusch (argued) and Ryan C. McCamy (on brief),Fargo, N.D., for petitioners and appellees.

         Michael P. Hurly, Devils Lake, N.D., for appellant.

         Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J., Dale V. Sandstrom, Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner. Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

          OPINION

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         Gerald W. VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

          [¶1] D.V.T., the father of minor child K.J.C., appealed from a district court's final decree of adoption, terminating his parental rights and granting a petition for step-parent adoption. We affirm the decree as modified, concluding the evidence supports the district court's findings and its decision is not clearly erroneous.

         I

          [¶2] The child was born in 2011. Although the father's paternity has never been judicially established, the parties agree D.V.T. is the child's father. The child's mother, K.B.C., was never married to the father and they were not in a relationship together when the child was born. In December 2014, the mother married B.J.C., the child's step-father.

          [¶3] On January 23, 2015, the mother and step-father petitioned for an order terminating the father's parental rights and allowing the step-father to adopt the child. They alleged the father's consent was not required because the father had not communicated with the child or provided

Page 65

for the child's care and support for more than one year.

          [¶4] The father appeared at a hearing on December 7, 2015, and objected to the petition. At the end of the hearing, the district court made oral findings on the record, stating it was terminating the father's parental rights and granting the petition for step-parent adoption. The court found the father's consent was not required because the father failed to be a part of the child's life for four years and the father never contributed any financial support for the child. The court found the adoption was in the child's best interests and ordered the father's parental rights be terminated.

          [¶5] On December 8, 2015, a final decree of adoption was entered. The court's written order said the required consent for adoption was obtained or excused, no person appeared at the hearing claiming to be the natural father and claiming custodial rights, and the adoption was in the child's best interests. The decree granted the petition for adoption and terminated the father's parental rights.

         II

          [¶6] The father argues the district court clearly erred in terminating his parental rights and finding his consent to the adoption was not necessary. The father contends there was not clear and convincing evidence he intended to abandon the child.

          [¶7] The trial court's findings of fact in an adoption proceeding, including whether a parent has abandoned a child, will not be reversed on appeal unless they are clearly erroneous. In re Adoption of S.R.F., 2004 ND 150, ¶ 7, 683 N.W.2d 913. A finding is clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, there is no evidence to support it, or if there is some supporting evidence, on the entire record we are left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made. In re Adoption of I.R.R., 2013 ND 211, ¶ 12, 839 N.W.2d 846.

          [¶8] Generally, a parent of a child must consent to adoption; ...


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