I N THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
I N THE FATTER OF THE MALE CHILD
BORN J U L Y 1 5 , 1 9 8 5 TO L . C . ;
I N RE THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL R I G H T S
AND D . S . C .
D i s t r i c t C o u r t of t h e S i x t h J u d i c i a l D i s t r i c t ,
I n a n d f o r t h e C o u n t y of P a r k ,
T h e H o n o r a b l e T h o m a s O l s o n , Judge p r e s i d i n g .
COUNSEL OF RECORD:
For A p p e l l a n t :
Jack Y a r d l - e y , L i v i n g s t o n , M o n t a n a
Yardley & Yardley;
F o r Respondent:
Lineberger & Davis;
P e t e r S. L i n e b e r g e r , B o z e m a n ,
S u b m i t t e d on B r i e f s :
D e c i d e d : May 1 5 , 1 9 8 6
Mr. Chief Justice J. A. Turnage delivered the Opinion of the
The birth mother, L.A.C., appeals the District Court's
order which determined, overall, not to interfere with the
child's adoption in Idaho.
feelings, the outcome of this
appeal is dictated by legal procedure.
The primary issue for us to consider here concerns the
jurisdiction of Montana district courts over a Montana born
child who has been transferred and adopted in Idaho.
adoption of the child in Idaho was legal, and this Court has
no jurisdiction to interfere.
Montana and Idaho have adopted the Interstate Compact
on Placement of Children.
Section 41-4-101, MCA; Section
The states have also adopted versions of the
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act.
Section 40-7-101 et
seq., MCA; Section 32-1101 et seq., I.C.A.
Both the Compact
and the Uniform Act have the goal of preventing jurisdictional tug-of-wars over children by the member states.
presents a contingency not anticipated by the statutes, but
which can be solved by application of the statutes with a
recognition of their broader principles and goals.
L.A.C. was an expectant mother residing in Park County,
She had recently been divorced from her husband for
a second time and doubted her ability and desire to raise the
Two months prior to the birth of her child, she
contacted AID Adoption Agency, Inc. (AID) of Idaho for assistance in placing the child in a proper home for adoption.
AID provided counselling to L.A.C.
and assisted her in se-
expressed her desire that the child be transferred to the
prospective parents in Idaho immediately after birth.
compliance with L.A.C.'s
wishes, AID set out to expedite the
process of a legal transfer of the child to Idaho.
were drawn a.nd administrative agencies contacted.
was born, and two days later L.A.C.
signed. forms relinquish-
ing her parental rights and consenting to adoption.
relinquishment form states as follows:
CONSENT FOR RELINQUISHMENT
OF PARENTAL RIGHTS
I, [L.A.C], of Clyde Park, Montana,
declare that I am the natural mother of
the unamed [sic] male child who was born
at the Livingston Memorial Hospital in
Park County, Montana on July 1.5, 1985.
Believing it to be in the best interests
of said child, I do hereby freely,
voluntarily and irrevocably release and
relinquish forever al-1 of my parental
rights, privileges and claim to said
child including the right to inheritance
and agree that from the date of execution of this document, my interests
shall be terminated and said child shall
to all legal interests and purposes be
relinquished to the custody of Aid
Adoption Agency, Inc., a private adoption agency licensed in Montana and
I further state that I understand tha.t
this relinquishment will be submitted by
Aid Adoption Agency, Inc., for the
purpose of obtaining an order to terminate my right to the said minor child
and for the purpose of transferring
custody to the above-referenced agency
for placement with adoptive parents. I
hereby waive notice to any proceeding
necessary to effect the termination of
my parental rights.
DATED this 11th day of July, 1985.
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN to before this 17th
day of July 1985.
s/s June Miller
Notary Public for the State of Montana
R.esiding at Wilsall, Montana.
My commission expires: 10-16-85
AID sent copies of the relinquishment documents and
notice of placement for adoption to the appropriate authorities in Idaho.
Three days after the child's birth, an AID
representative took the child to the adoptive family in
Idaho, as had been agreed.
Three days later, L.A.C. notified
the AID representative that she had changed her mind and did
not want to give the child up for adoption.
petition to revoke her consent to the adoption and obtained
an ex parte temporary restraining order from the Park County
District Court, prohibiting adoptive placement of the child
and ordering that he be returned to Montana.
By this time,
however, Idaho had approved the child's placement for adoption, and the child was legally placed with the adoptive
Also at this time, AID filed its petition in the
Park County District Court for an order of termination of
Montana's Department of Social and Rehabil-
itation Services and the AID representative attempted to
arrange for the child to be brought back to Montana, but the
adoptive parents would not agree to that.
adoptive parents initiated adoption proceedings in Idaho and
obtained a temporary restraining order from the Idaho district court, prohibiting removal of the child. from their
custody until the outcome of the adoption proceedings.
final adoption order was entered in Idaho.
After that time, the Montana District Court, with a new
judge presiding, held. a hearing on
revoke her consent to adoption and relinquishment of parental
AID presented testimony and evidence at the hearing.
The court held that L.A.C. was not a "sending agency" under
the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children,
MCA, and, because of that it set a.side the Montana court's
prior restraining order.
It also held that AID was not in
violation of any court order, that L.A.C. 's parental rights
were terminated, and that it was in the child's best interests to remain with the adoptive parents in Idaho.
sought a writ of supervisory control from this
Court, which was denied.
She now appeals.
This opinion will first consider the effect of L.A.C.'s
relinquishment of parental rights on the District Court's
contention that she is a "sending
agency" under the Interstate Compact will be discussed as a
sub-issue to the District Court jurisdiction issue.
then consider L.A.C1s challenges to the adoption proceedings
The opinion will conclude with a discussion of
this Court's jurisdiction.
jurisdiction if L.A.C.'s
We make no conclusion as to our
arguments had been correct.
conduct over a period of two months were
directed at giving her child up for adoption to a family of
her choice in Idaho.
vices of AID.
Towards this end she engaged the ser-
She voluntarily signed and executed a form
relinquishing her parental rights to AID.
ment had legal consequences that determine the case.
The effect of L.A.C.'s
form can be found in
execution of the relinquishment
40-6-135 (1) and ( 7 ) , MCA.
(1) provides how a natural mother can relinquish her parental
(1) Any parent or guardian who proposes
to relinquish custody of a child for
purposes of placing the child for adoption may do so by executing a relinquishment by which all parental rights
to the child are voluntarily relin-
quished to an agency of the state of
Montana or a licensed adoption agency.
parental rights were relinquished when she
executed the form.
No additional procedure was required for
relinquished her parental
rights to AID, AID became a "sendling agency" as defined by
the Interstate Compact.
Section 41-4-101, Art. 11, MCA.
a sending agency, AID had the power to place the child for
adoption in Idaho.
See 5 41-4-101, Art. V, MCA.
ly, the only standing L.A.C.
then had in the Montana courts
was to seek a revocation of the relinquishment.
(7) provides the! only method by which a
voluntarily executed relinquishment can be revoked:
(7) Upon petition of a person who
executed a relinquishment - of the
agency of the State of Montana or licensed adoption agency to which the
child was relinquished, the court with
which the relinquishment was filed may
grant a hearing to consider whether the
relinquishment should be revoked.
relinquishment may - - revoked - not be
child has been placed for adoption.
. (Emphasis added.)
Thus, subsection (7) requires both the adoption agency and
relinquishing parent to petition the court before the relinquishment can be revoked.
similar statutory precurWe interpreted substantia.11~
sors to the provisions just quoted in In Re Adoption of
(1979), 183 Mont. 347, 353,,599 P.2d 375, 379, where
Clearly, a construction of this section
[ (1)I along with subsec:tion (7) of the
same statute requires a determination
that a strong public policy interest
exists surrounding the finality of
parental releases, and one who voluntarily signs a parental release cannot
willy-nilly revoke that release.
We held that the procedure contained in subsection (7) is
required when there is no issue of voluntariness of the
599 P.2d at 379.
issue of voluntariness here.
There is no
petition the District Court to revoke the relinquishment with
AID as a co-petitioner.
Section 40-6-135(7), MCA.
AID was not a co-petitioner, the District Court was without
authority to revoke the relinquishment.
Moreover, by the
statute the relinquishment became irrevocable when the child
was placed for adoption in Idaho.
We hold that once the
child was placed for adoption in Idaho, and the relinquishment became irrevocable, Montana lost jurisdiction.
argues that she was the "sending agency," and
that, under the Interstate Compact she had jurisdiction to
effect return of the child.
See S 41-4-101, Art. V, MCA.
The Interstate Compact defines "sending agency":
(2) "sending agency" means a party
state, officer or employee thereof; a
subdivision of a party state or officer
or employee thereof; a court of a party
state; a person, corporation, association, charitable agency, or other entity
which sends, brings, or causes to be
sent or brought any child to another
Section 41-4-101 ( 2 ) ,
Art. 11, MCA.
parental rights to AID who then effectuated the transfer of
the child to Idaho.
We find that AID was the sending agency.
L.A.C. asks us to interpret the above-quoted definition
to include a parent who initiates an adoption by relinquishing her rights to an adoption agency.
Such an interpretation
would mean that no state or private licensed adoption agency
would ever be able to act with assurance that its conduct was
We will not interpret the definition so broadly.
also argues that the child was not properly
placed for adoption in Idaho, because AID did not have approval of Idaho prior to the transfer as required by Article
111 of the Interstate Compact.
As such, she believes she can
still revoke her relinquishment of parental rights.
argument fails for two 'reasons:
require AID as a co-petitioner before the District Court
could revoke the relinquishment; and (2) Idaho's notification
and approval procedures are matters to be worked out between
AID and Idaho.
L.A.C. has no standing to attack the adoption
process in Idaho because she relinquished her parental rights
Under Article V of the Compact, AID then had the
power to effect the transfer of the child to Idaho.
that the only reason, the transfer occurred before the formal
notice and approval of Idaho was because of L.A.Cr s request
Finally, L.A.C. argues that Montana still has jurisdiction because AID did not obtain a Montana District Court
order terminating L.A.C.'s
the child in Idaho.
parental rights prior to placing
She refers us to S 40-8-103(10), MCA,
which defines "placement for adoption" as "the transfer of
physical custody of a child with respect to whom parental
rights have been terminated and who is otherwise legally free
for adoption to a person who intends to adopt the child."
From this she argues that because AID had not secured the
termination order, the "placement" in Idaho was improper, and
AID, therefore, has "unclean hands."
First, we note that by 5 40-6-135(5) it was mandatory
upon the District Court to issue an order terminating parental rights when the relinquishment was filed.
termination was forthcoming.
Me further note that the defi-
nition relied upon by L.A.C.
does not require a judicial
Rather, the definition only requires that
parental rights have been terminated.
form specifically states that L.A.C.'s
terminated when the form was executed.
parental rights were
We hold that L.A.C.'s
parental rights were terminated when she executed the form
relinquishing her parental rights.
points to A.R.M.
46-5.440 (6) which states:
Agencies must secure a court order
terminating the parental rights of the
birth parents and legal authority to
place the child for adoption prior to
AID had authority to place the child in Idaho under Article V
of the Compact.
claims that since AID had
not secured the court order terminating parental rights, the
placement was illegal.
Whether or not AID obtained a termination order in
Montana is irrelevant to the child's adoption in Idaho.
Idaho Code does not require a judicial termination of parental rights prior to adoption.
Rather, the adoption decree
automatically results in a termination of parental rights.
Section 16-1509, I.C.A.
In Idaho only the consent of the
natural parents is required in its adoption proceedings.
See, ~5 16-1504 and -1509, I.C.A.
The Idaho district court
was presented with the natural parents' properly executed
consents to adoption and relinquishments of parental rights.
adoption decree was
rights were judicially terminated by operation of 5 16-1509,
We can see nothing illegal or improper about the
child's adoption in Idaho.
interfere with the Idaho district court's adoption decree.
Section 40-7-114, MCA, provides in part:
The courts of this state shall recognize
and enforce an initial or modification
decree of a court of another state which
has assumed jurisdiction under statutory
provisions substantially in accordance
with this chapter
Idaho had jurisdiction over the adoption proceedings under a
5 32-1103, I.C.A.
Therefore, by S 40-7-114, MCA, we must
recognize the Idaho adoption decree and have no jurisdiction
We note that a similar decision is mandated by
the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution and Montana statutes.
See U. S. Const. , Art. IV,
and 5 26-3-203, MCA.
Because this Court has no jurisdiction to interfere
with the child's adoption, we need not consider appellant's
challenge to the District Court's finding that the child's
best interests would be served by remaining with its adoptive
We will comment, however, that the finding is
supported by substantial evidence.
The District Court is affirmed in its order terminating
parental rights and its recognition of the child's legal
adoption in Idaho.