In re Anna S.

Facts: The Court of Appeals summarized the relevant facts as follows:

In June 2008, Mother became pregnant with the Child.  Several months before the Child was born, Mother terminated all communication with Father, notwithstanding Father’s numerous attempts to remain in contact with Mother.  Shortly after Mother gave birth, she saw Father’s sister at a store and told her that she, i.e. Mother, had suffered a miscarriage.  In reality, Mother had given the Child up for adoption through Bethany Christian Services of East Tennessee (“Bethany Christian”).  Mother also had lied to Bethany Christian and, because of this deception, Bethany Christian was unaware of Father’s true identity.   Father learned that Mother had given birth to the Child after reading a Notice in the local newspaper stating that Bethany Christian had filed a petition to terminate parental rights and that his parental rights were about to be terminated.  Father immediately notified Bethany Christian of his existence and retained counsel.  Based on stipulated facts, Bethany Christian and Father filed competing motions for summary judgment.  The Trial Court granted Father’s motion after finding that there was no clear and convincing evidence of grounds to terminate his parental rights.  Bethany Christian appeals.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s finding that grounds to terminate Father’s parental rights do not exist.

Because Mother refused any contact with Father in the months before the Child was born and because Father had been informed that Mother had miscarried, he cannot be deemed to have failed “without good cause or excuse” to pay a reasonable share of Mother’s prenatal, natal, and postnatal expenses.  Quite simply, Father was not aware that there were any such expenses and, in fact, had been deliberately misled into believing that such expenses did not exist.  It is for the very same reason that Father cannot be deemed to have failed “without good cause or excuse” to make reasonable and consistent child support payments. This is what the Trial Court found, and the evidence does not preponderate against these findings.

The Opinion summarizes this sad case appropriately:

This is an unfortunate case in many ways.  It is unfortunate that, due to Mother’s blatant and calculated lies, Father has had to retain counsel to protect his fundamental parental rights.  It is unfortunate that, due to Mother’s blatant and calculated lies, Bethany Christian was deceived into believing that it had done what it needed to do in order to notify the biological father of the planned adoption.  It is unfortunate that, due to Mother’s blatant and calculated lies, the Child has been living with prospective adoptive parents and forming a bond with them and that relationship must now come to an end through no fault of the prospective adoptive parents.  Because of Mother’s behavior, there are no true winners in this case.

In re Anna S. (Tenn. Ct. App. May 6, 2010).

Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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