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ADOPTION KATHRYN STUNKARD. APPEAL GOLDEN CRADLE (12/05/88)

filed: December 5, 1988.

IN RE ADOPTION OF KATHRYN STUNKARD. APPEAL OF GOLDEN CRADLE


Appeal from the Order entered on April 5, 1988, in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Civil Division, at No. 376 of 1976.

COUNSEL

Samuel C. Totaro, Jr., Feasterville, for appellant.

Rowley, Wieand and Beck, JJ. Rowley, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Beck

[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 110]

Appellant, Golden Cradle, appeals the adjudication of the orphans' court of Montgomery County denying its petition for the involuntary termination of the parental rights of Timothy Donnelly. As we agree with the orphans' court that appellant failed to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that parental rights should be terminated, the order appealed from is affirmed.

This case involves a petition by Golden Cradle, a licensed adoption agency and intermediary in this case, to terminate the parental rights of an unwed father. The child involved, Kathryn Stunkard, has, for the past two years, resided with her pre-adoptive parents.

The facts relevant to the case are as follows. Timothy Donnelly (appellee) and Rebecca Stunkard met while both were nineteen and working at Pomeroy's department store in their home town of Wilmington, Delaware. Rebecca was a full-time employee, and Timothy was a college student working part-time. They began dating in November of 1985. Rebecca became pregnant in February of the following year. As was noted by the orphans' court, Rebecca and Timothy talked at length about what they were going to do concerning the pregnancy, never coming to any conclusion. Although they initially considered abortion, this idea was dismissed and Rebecca decided to carry the baby to term. The couple apparently discussed the possibilities of marriage, living together, and putting the baby up for adoption, yet no concrete plans ever materialized. Rebecca testified that, becoming increasingly weary of Timothy's indecision, she terminated the relationship in August of 1986. Shortly thereafter, Rebecca contacted Timothy to inform him of her plans to place the baby for adoption. In October, Timothy received adoption forms from Golden Cradle which he informed Rebecca that he would not sign. However, he told Rebecca on several occasions that he would not attempt to stand in the way of her placing the baby for adoption. In

[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 111]

    early November, Timothy contacted Rebecca to inquire as to expected arrival time of the child.

Kathryn Stunkard was born on November 15, 1986, and Rebecca's mother informed Timothy's mother of the birth. Timothy and his parents viewed Kathryn from behind a glass partition for 45 minutes on November 17. Rebecca informed Timothy that if he wished to take the child, he should make arrangements to do so on November 18. She further informed him that if he did not wish to take the child, the child would be placed with Golden Cradle for delivery to the prospective adoptive parents.

Timothy took no action and on November 18, Rebecca signed a consent to adoption and the child was delivered, by Golden Cradle as intermediary, to her pre-adoptive parents. On or about November 20, Timothy received a letter from Golden Cradle along with a consent to adoption form. Timothy neither signed the consent nor contacted anyone in regard to it. In December of 1986, Timothy received a letter from Golden Cradle's counsel notifying him of a voluntary relinquishment hearing to be held on January 8, 1987, wherein Rebecca intended to relinquish her rights to Kathryn. The orphans' court found that Timothy did nothing although he believed that the hearing would result in the termination of his rights to Kathryn. Shortly before the hearing, Timothy visited Rebecca and told her that he would not be present at the hearing.

Rebecca voluntarily relinquished her rights to Kathryn on January 8, 1987. One week later, Timothy contacted an attorney and a meeting was arranged at Golden Cradle's offices in Bala Cynwyd. Nothing concrete came of this meeting, and on March 3, 1987, Timothy filed a petition for custody of Kathryn.

On April 15, Golden Cradle filed the instant petition for termination of Timothy's parental rights. Subsequently, there were petitions filed for discovery, motions for judgment on the pleadings, a motion for bifurcation, a petition to vacate the final decree terminating the parental rights of Rebecca Stunkard, and a request that Timothy and Rebecca

[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 112]

    submit to psychological evaluations. Hearings were held on September 28 and 29, and on October 28, 1987. The Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Orphans' Court division, denied Golden Cradle's petition for the involuntary termination of Timothy Donnelly's parental rights. This appeal by Golden Cradle followed.

Golden Cradle asserts that the orphans' court erred in holding that appellant failed to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that Timothy Donnelly's parental rights should be terminated under either relevant section of the Adoption Act. 23 Pa.C.S.A. sections 2511(a)(1), (a)(2) (Purdon Supp.1988). In addition, appellant contends that the court erred in not ...


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