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CHAMBERS APPEAL (05/23/73)

decided: May 23, 1973.

CHAMBERS APPEAL


Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, of Butler County, No. 39 of 1971, in re: adoption of Benjamin Francis Chambers.

COUNSEL

A. R. Cingolani, Jr., with him Cingolani & Cingolani, for appellant.

Robert J. Stock, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Nix concurs in the result. Mr. Justice Manderino dissents.

Author: Roberts

[ 452 Pa. Page 150]

On February 7, 1971, appellant gave birth, out of wedlock, to a baby boy. The mother had been seriously ill during pregnancy and remained ill after the birth of her son. Because of appellant's condition she had contacted the Catholic Social Services of Butler County for counseling during her pregnancy. After the birth of her child appellant gave written authorization to that social agency to place the infant in foster care for six weeks. A voluntary relinquishment hearing was scheduled for March 23, 1971. Prior to the hearing appellant again became seriously ill. She did, however, appear at the scheduled hearing on March 23, 1971, at which time she consented to the voluntary relinquishment of her child. The court on that date entered a Decree of Relinquishment and awarded custody of the child to the adoption agency in accordance with the Adoption Act of 1970, Act of July 24, 1970, P. L. 620, art. III, 1 P.S. § 321 (Supp. 1972).

On October 27, 1971, pursuant to a petition for adoption, and hearing thereon, the Orphans' Court of Butler County approved the petition of the adoptive parents and entered an appropriate decree of adoption. Approximately nine months thereafter, on July 18, 1972, the natural mother filed a petition seeking to vacate both the adoption decree (October 27, 1971) and the earlier decree of voluntary relinquishment (March 23,

[ 452 Pa. Page 1511971]

). On September 7, 1972, the court dismissed the petition without a hearing. Appellant then appealed to this Court. We now affirm.

Appellant contends that the voluntary relinquishment decree of March 23, 1971, must be vacated because her consent to relinquish all rights to her child, given at the March 23, 1971 hearing, was not intelligent, voluntary or deliberate. Appellant advances two reasons for vitiating her consent. First, she alleges that the social worker assigned to her informed her incorrectly that foster care in Pennsylvania could be arranged for a maximum of only six weeks. Since appellant felt she would not be well enough to care for the child within six weeks she contends that she felt compelled to consent to the relinquishment proceeding. Appellant urges that this incorrect information amounted to a material mistake of present fact sufficient to invalidate her consent to the relinquishment. Secondly, appellant asserts that because of her continuing illness she was "in a drugged state" at the relinquishment hearing.*fn1 Therefore, she argues, that although her consent on the record appears valid, she did not actually comprehend what was happening due to her alleged condition, and thus her consent was neither intelligent, voluntary, nor deliberate.

The record reveals the following colloquy at the relinquishment hearing on March 23, 1971: "[The Court] Q. You understand that if the court grants your petition that your rights as a parent to this child will be terminated forever? [Appellant] A. Yes, sir. [The Court] Q. You understand that if the court enters a decree here that you will not have any right to learn anything about the child in the future? [Appellant] A. Yes, sir. [The Court] Q. You understand that you will have no right to visit the child or have any contact

[ 452 Pa. Page 152]

    with the child? [Appellant] A. Yes, sir. [The Court] Q. Do you understand that the Catholic Social Service will have the power and the authority to place the child for adoption? [Appellant] A. Yes. [The Court] Q. You understand that? [Appellant] A. Yes. [The Court] Q. So, Miss [Appellant], this petition to the court is a free and voluntary act on your part? [Appellant] A. Yes, sir." On its face this colloquy presents a clear, unambiguous, voluntary relinquishment by appellant of all future ...


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