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ADOPTION R. W. B. APPEAL C. W. (05/01/79)

decided: May 1, 1979.

IN RE ADOPTION OF R. W. B. APPEAL OF C. W.


No. 62 March Term 1978, Appeal from the Decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Eayette County, Orphans' Court Division at No. 805 of 1977.

COUNSEL

Frederick W. Heintz, Jr., Southwestern Pa. Legal Aid Society, Inc., Uniontown, for appellant.

Samuel J. Davis, Uniontown, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Eagen

[ 485 Pa. Page 171]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal by the natural mother from the final decree*fn1 entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, Orphans' Court Division, decreeing the adoption of R.W.B. by A.W.U. and E.K.U.

R.W.B., the subject of this adoption proceeding, was born on December 18, 1976 in Cheverlyn, Maryland. His natural parents, C.W. and R.L.W., were separated at the time of his birth and were divorced on June 27, 1977. R.L.W. has never seen or supported his son. C.W. has another child, D.M.B., born out of wedlock on October 15, 1975. R.L.W. is not the father of D.M.B. R.W.B. was given his mother's maiden name and, thus, the same last name as D.M.B.

On February 11, 1977, when R.W.B. was approximately six weeks of age, C.W. arranged for his adoption by A.W.U. and E.K.U. The prospective adopting parents took custody of the child at C.W.'s home in Maryland and returned with him to their home in Uniontown, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Six days later, on February 17, 1977, C.W. traveled

[ 485 Pa. Page 172]

    to Uniontown and consented in writing to the adoption of R.W.B. in the office of counsel for the adopting parents. Approximately six months later, in August 1977, C.W. informed A.W.U. and E.K.U. that she wanted the child returned. Nevertheless, on September 6, 1977, A.W.U. and E.K.U. filed a petition for the adoption of R.W.B.

Following notice to all parties, the first hearing on the petition was held on September 28, 1977. At that time, only the adopting parents testified. C.W., stating in advance that her mother whom she needed as a witness was confined to bed and unable to travel to the hearing on that date, did not appear. A subsequent hearing, set for October 12, 1977, was rescheduled to November 3, 1977 due to the hearing judge's illness. On November 3, 1977, C.W. appeared without counsel and the matter was rescheduled to November 17, 1977. C.W. was absent on that date due to the death of her father. On November 29, 1977, C.W., represented by counsel, appeared and testified that she did not consent to the adoption.*fn2

At the conclusion of the second hearing, the parties were advised a decision would be withheld pending receipt of a report from Child Welfare Services. Prior to receiving the report, the hearing judge retired from office and the parties stipulated the matter should be decided on the existing record and without further testimony. On April 26, 1978, the court decreed the adoption of R.W.B. by the petitioners. The court concluded R.W.B.'s natural father and mother had abandoned him within the meaning of section 311(1) of the Adoption Act, Act of July 24, 1970, P.L. 620, No. ...


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