Shaalan V. Jerden Breif Summary- Tort Law Research Paper (300 Level Course)
Shaalan V. Jerden, 713 NE2d 896 Ind. App. (1999)
Facts: Rita Wanstrath Jerden gave birth to a son, A.K.S., on January 31, 1992. The next day Rita and Shaalan executed a paternity affidavit. They never wed, but Shaalan lived with Rita and the child or had frequent contact through March 1994. Shaalan paid for four months of day care while Rita provided financial support.
Shaalan moved to Maryland in June 1994, but maintained contact with A.K.S. through phone calls and letters for over one year. Shaalan visited A.K.S. in August 1994, and also took him on a vacation in 1994. Beginning in 1996, Rita refused to read letters to the child and returned the letters to Shaalan. Shaalan returned to Indiana briefly in May 1997 and attempted to see the child but a meeting could not be arranged.
Rita then married William Jerden on April 12, 1997 and on May 6, 1997, Jerden filed a petition to adopt A.K.S. and Rita consented to the adoption. The petition was granted and finalized on September 23, 1997. Shaalan was informed of the adoption on October 6, 1997. On December 10, 1997, Shaalan filed a putative father registration form with the Indiana State Department of Heath.
Procedural History: The trial court held a hearing on October 14, 1998, and on November 12, 1998, issued its findings of fact and conclusions of law denying Shaalan’s motion to reopen judgment and set aside Decree of adoption. Shaalan then appeals.
Issue(s): I. Whether the trial court erred by finding that Shaalan was not entitled to notice of the petition for adoption of A.K.S., due to Shaalan’s failure to register with the putative father registry. II. Whether the trial court erred by finding that Shaalan’s consent to the adoption of A.K.S. was not required.
Holding: (1) Paternity affiant was entitled to notice of adoption, but (2) affiant’s consent to adoption was not required, based on his failure to support child.
Rational: (1) Shaalan was not a putative father required to register with the putative father registry because he had executed a paternity affidavit the day after A.K.S. was born and was acknowledged by both Shaalan and Rita thus, the trial court erred by finding that his failure to register forfeited his right to notice of the adoption. (2) Under Ind. Code 31-19-9-8 provides in part that: A parent of a child in the custody of another person if for a period of at least one year the parent: (a). fails without justifiable cause to communicate significantly with the child when able to do so or (b) knowingly fails to provide for the care and support of the child when able to do so as required in law or judicial decree. There was evidence that supports that Shaalan did make attempts to maintain contact with A.K.S., but Rita refused to let him communicate with his son. However, Shaalan himself testified that he had not provided any support for A.K.S since Shaalan moved to Maryland in 1994. Even though Rita and Shaalan did not have an order requiring him to pay support, the court stated that “fathers have a common law duty to support their children which exists apart form any court order or statute.”