Grandparent Not Entitled to Notice of Adoption: In re Janessa R.K.B.E.

Facts: The trial court granted the adoption of Child by her foster parents. Child had been in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services. Shortly thereafter, Child’s paternal grandmother filed a Rule 60 motion to set aside the order of adoption because she had not been given notice of that proceeding. The trial court denied the motion. Paternal Grandmother appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Paternal Grandmother argued she should have been given notice of the adoption proceedings and an opportunity to participate.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-117 states that only “the legal parents, guardian of the person of the child or of an adult, the biological mother, and the established father or putative father of the child must be made parties to the adoption proceeding.” The statute further provides that “[o]ther biological or legal relatives of the child or the adult are not necessary parties to the proceeding and shall not be entitled to notice of the adoption proceedings unless they are legal guardians as defined in § 36-1-102 or legal custodians of the person of the child or adult at the time the petition is filed.” Paternal Grandmother was neither a legal guardian nor custodian so this statute provided no relief.

Paternal Grandmother then argued that her status as a grandparent entitled her to notice of the adoption. The Court disagreed, stating:

[B]iological grandparents are not entitled to notice of adoption proceedings concerning a grandchild, and are not entitled to intervene as a matter of right in those proceedings. . . .

As this Court has previously explained, adoptions are “governed by statutes which are in derogation of the common law,” and must be strictly construed. We are required to strictly construe the provisions outlined above governing who is necessary to be a party to adoption proceedings and who is entitled to notice. As a grandparent with no custodial or guardianship rights, [Paternal Grandmother] was not entitled to notice of the adoption proceedings, nor was she entitled to be made a party.

Moreover, [Rule] 60 is designed to correct errors in judgments and is to be utilized by a “party” or a “party’s legal representative.” [Paternal Grandmother] was not a party to the adoption proceedings and thus, the Trial Court correctly ruled that it could not grant her any relief pursuant to [Rule] 60.

Thus, the trial court was affirmed.

In re Janessa R.K.B.E. (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Section, April 9, 2012).

Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Matrimonial, Divorce and Family Law Attorney.

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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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