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Court denies revocation of adoption

By: Laura Brown//November 27, 2023//

Adoption Law. Gavel and word Adoption on sound block

Court denies revocation of adoption

By: Laura Brown//November 27, 2023//

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Nearly seven years ago, parents consented to the adoption of their child following allegations of causing their biological child egregious harm. Although the biological parents of the child moved to revoke their consent to the adoption, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 20 that the motion was untimely.

The child in question, identified as F.T., was diagnosed with end-stage liver failure. She ultimately required a liver transplant in December 2016. Parents learned of the condition of their child’s liver in April 2016. However, parents did not seek medical treatment and canceled many of the child’s medical appointments.

At Mayo Clinic, where the child received the liver treatment, a social worker spoke with the parents. The parents — who belong to a group called Maranatha — allegedly told a Mayo Clinic social worker to “[l]et God heal her or take her.” Parents initially refused to consent to necessary medical procedures, although eventually they relented.

Given the perceived indifference to the child’s medical needs and fearing that the parents would not be willing to administer the complex lifelong care that the child would need, Houston County Human Services filed a termination of parental rights in November 2016.

Parents contested that they knew about the child’s liver condition prior to her hospitalization in November 2016. They alleged that they brought the child to the doctor when they realized something was wrong.

The parents also argued that their association with Maranatha, a group of Christians with similar beliefs, did not preclude them from seeking medical assistance for the child. Conversely, Houston County reported that those involved with Maranatha were controlled by their leader, and this included whether medical treatment could be sought.

A trial was set to terminate the parents’ parental rights. On the day of the trial, both parents consented to adoption. Custody of F.T. was transferred to the commissioner of Human Services. The child was adopted by a couple that the appellants had chosen.

However, exactly six years after the biological parents consented to the adoption of the child, they moved to revoke their consents, alleging fraud. They claimed that pertinent portions of the child’s medical records were withheld and that the child’s medical needs and history were mispresented. The biological parents also alleged that, had they known that the child could have been placed with their relatives, they would have gone to trial instead.

The district court rejected the motion, finding that the appellants failed to allege a prima facie case of fraud. On appeal, the respondent claimed that the district court erred in finding the motion was timely filed.

Minnesota statutes do not have a specific deadline by which parents must bring motions to revoke fraudulently obtained adoptions consents. Two statutory deadlines were at issue: one that allows 90 days to introduce a fraud-based motion and another that allows six years. There is a six-year statute of limitations for bringing a civil claim that is based on fraud. The 90-day deadline is found in juvenile protection rules. Ultimately, the court found that the shorter deadline was “consistent with Minnesota’s policy of strictly adhering to the rules of juvenile procedure and expeditiously resolving child permanency matters.”

“Here, we are far past the point of seeking a permanent placement for F.T.; instead, appellants ask this court to undo a final adoption by a couple they chose,” the court wrote. “Removing F.T. from her home would frustrate the purpose of the rules of juvenile protection and require us to reach an unreasonable result.”

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