IN RE: J.W.B. AND R.D.B., MINORS APPEAL OF: L.B., FATHER
from the Decree Entered January 4, 2019 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Lycoming County Orphans' Court at No(s):
BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., MURRAY, J., and STEVENS, [*] P.J.E.
(Father) appeals from the decree terminating his parental
rights to his minor children, J.W.B. (born July 2013) and
R.D.B. (born June 2015) (Children), and confirming his
consent to adoption. Father avers that his consent to
adoption was invalid because it did not comply with the laws
of Colorado, where he resides. After careful review, we hold
that the trial court properly applied Pennsylvania law, and
further, Father failed to comply with Pennsylvania law when
he attempted to revoke his consent. Accordingly, we affirm.
(Mother) and her husband, M.S. (Husband) are residents of
Pennsylvania, where they live with Children. Father is a
resident of Colorado. On June 13, 2018, Mother and Husband
filed a petition seeking to confirm consent to adoption or,
in the alternative, to involuntarily terminate Father's
parental rights, and a petition for adoption. See
Petition to Confirm Consent, 6/13/18, at ¶¶ 1-13.
Previously, on November 27, 2017, Father had signed a
consent, which advised him that his consent was irrevocable
unless revoked within 30 days after execution by delivery of
written revocation to the orphans' court. See
Petition to Confirm Consent, 6/13/18, Exhibit A. The consent
was signed by Father and witnessed by Father's girlfriend
and father. Id. On October 17, 2018 and November 28,
2018, the court convened a hearing on Mother and
testified that on September 24, 2017, she had a conversation
with Father in which he stated he wished to relinquish his
parental rights, and asked Mother to speak to her husband
about adopting Children. See N.T., 10/17/18, at 6-7.
Father instructed Mother to call Roger Wiest, Esquire, who
assisted Father and Mother during their divorce. Id.
at 7. Mother called Attorney Wiest, who prepared and mailed
to Father a consent to adoption for each child. Id.
at 8. Father signed his consent on November 27, 2017.
Id. Mother stated that after texting Father to tell
him that she and Husband were pursuing adoption, she had no
further conversations with Father; that Attorney Wiest told
her Father had signed the consent; and that at no point did
Father inform Mother he had changed his mind or that he had
submitted a written revocation. Id. at 11.
Wiest testified that Mother contacted him regarding the
adoption of Children. N.T., 10/17/18, at 17-18. Attorney
Wiest then prepared the written consent to adoption, which he
sent to Father in Colorado. Id. at 18. Attorney
Wiest testified that he did not consider Colorado law at the
time he prepared the documents, as he was of the opinion
that, because it was a Pennsylvania adoption, Pennsylvania
law would apply. Id. at 18-19. Further, Attorney
Wiest proceeded with the understanding that Mother and Father
had agreed to the relinquishment and adoption. Id.
at 19. At some point in May 2018, Father telephoned Attorney
Wiest and stated that he changed his mind and no longer
wished to consent; Attorney Wiest advised Father to retain
separate counsel to proceed further. Id. at 20, 22.
However, Attorney Wiest never received written revocation
from Father. Id. at 21-22.
called Randall W. Klauzer, Esquire, an attorney licensed in
Colorado, to testify as an expert on parental consent to
termination. N.T., 10/17/18, at 27-28. Specifically, Attorney
Klauzer testified that the Colorado statute requires
counseling before a party may consent to the termination of
his parental rights, and additionally, contains restrictions
that the Pennsylvania statute does not. Id. at
31-50. Colorado law requires that consent be in the form of a
sworn statement, and that a copy of the adoption petition be
attached to the consent. Id. Also, Colorado law
allows for revocation of consent prior to the entry of an
adoption decree. Id. Attorney Klauzer thus opined
that Father's consent did not conform to Colorado law and
would not be valid and enforceable in Colorado. Id.
testified that he has lived in Colorado since February 2017.
N.T., 10/17/18, at 52. Father acknowledged that he contacted
Mother about relinquishing his parental rights on September
24, 2017, and about contacting Attorney Wiest to effectuate
Children's adoption in Pennsylvania. Id. at
53-54. Attorney Wiest sent Father the consent paperwork and
advised Father how to revoke his consent. Id. Father
executed the consent on November 27, 2017, and returned it to
Attorney Wiest. Id. at 56. Father admitted he never
executed a written revocation. Id. After Mother
texted Father to tell him that the paperwork was complete,
and she and Husband would proceed with adoption, Father
called Attorney Wiest and told him that he no longer wished
to relinquish his parental rights. Id. at 64. Father
confirmed that Attorney Wiest told him to obtain a new
attorney. Id. Father conceded that he was aware that
the consent he executed required written revocation within 30
days, and that he did not revoke his consent within that
time. Id. at 64-65. Father also claimed that he had
been drinking heavily around the time and had been in rehab.
Id. at 65-66.
conclusion of the November 28, 2018 hearing, the court held
the matter under advisement. On January 4, 2019, the court
issued an opinion and decree terminating Father's
parental rights to Children. Pertinently, the court rejected
Father's claim that Colorado law applied, and held
instead that under Pennsylvania law, Father's attempt to
revoke his consent was not valid. Father filed a notice of
appeal and concise statement of errors complained of on
appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b).
appeal, Father raises the following issue for our review:
Did the [orphans' court] err in application of 23
Pa.C.S.A. § 2711(c) by failing to consider the
[invalidity] of consents for adoption under Colorado law,
simply because the Colorado resident Father did not revoke
consent within 30 days in accordance with Pennsylvania law
where no such requirement exists in Colorado and where
Colorado law permits revocation of consent up to and
including the date of hearing?
Brief at 2.
review cases involving the termination of parental rights