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In re R.L.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 20, 2017

IN RE: R.L., MINOR CHILD APPEAL OF: WASHINGTON COUNTY CHILDREN AND YOUTH SOCIAL SERVICES AGENCY

         Appeal from the Order Entered May 18, 2017 In the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County Orphans' Court at No(s): 63-17-0316

          BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., DUBOW, J., and PLATT [*], J.

          OPINION

          DUBOW, J.

         Appellant, Washington County Children and Youth Social Services Agency ("Agency"), appeals from the May 18, 2017 Order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County Orphans' Court, which dismissed the Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights and Consent to Adoption ("Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment") signed by R.L. ("Father") based on Father's verbal revocation of his consent made 72 days after he executed the consent to adoption. After careful review, we conclude that, pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. §2711(c), Father's revocation was untimely. We, thus, vacate the Order and remand with instructions.

         Minor child R.L. ("Child") was born in December 2015 and placed with the Agency two days after birth. On March 7, 2017, Father and V.C. ("Mother") both signed Petitions for Voluntary Relinquishment.

         On May 18, 2017, the trial court held a hearing to confirm consent and terminate parental rights. At the hearing, Mother remained willing to terminate her parental rights to Child. However, through counsel, Father verbally informed the trial court that he no longer wanted to terminate his parental rights and wanted to revoke his consent. The Agency informed the trial court that Father had signed the Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment more than thirty days prior to the hearing and had not provided any written notice that he intended to revoke his consent as required by 42 Pa.C.S. § 2711(c). The trial court, over the Agency's objection, dismissed Father's Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment based on the fact that Father no longer consented to Child's adoption.[1]

         The Agency timely appealed. Both the Agency and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

         The Agency raises the following issues on appeal:

1. Did the trial court err in dismissing the above referenced action on May 18, 2017, based upon advice from counsel for biological father that his client no longer consented to adoption of the minor child when biological father executed a [Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment] on March 7, 2017, and failed to revoke or challenge the consent pursuant to 23 [Pa.C.S.] § 2711(c)?
2. Did the trial court err by accepting biological father's verbal request to revoke his [Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment] more than 30 days after the execution of the consent, in violation of 23 [Pa.C.S.] § 2711 (c)(1)(i)?

         Agency's Brief at 2.

         We review a revocation of consent to adoption in relation to a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights for an abuse of discretion or legal error. In re C.M.C., 140 A.3d 699, 704-05 (Pa. Super. 2016). We must determine whether the record is free from legal error and the court's factual findings are supported by the evidence. Id.

         Instantly, the Agency avers that the trial court erred when it entered an Order dismissing Father's Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment based on Father's verbal request to revoke his consent to adoption, which was made in violation of the revocation timeline and procedure provided for in 23 Pa.C.S. § 2711(c). Agency's Brief at 5. We agree.

         Section 2711 of the Adoption Act sets forth the requirements for a consent to adoption and clearly outlines the procedure and timeframes for revoking a voluntary consent to adoption. See 23 Pa.C.S. 2711. Section 2711(c) unequivocally states that "[a] consent to an adoption may only be revoked as set forth in this subsection, " and "[t]he revocation of a consent shall be in writing and shall be served upon the agency or adult to whom the child was relinquished." 23 Pa.C.S. § 2711(c). Further, "[f]or a consent to an adoption executed by a birth father or a putative father, the consent is irrevocable more than 30 days after the birth of the child or the execution of the consent, whichever ...


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