In re Williams (Opinion - Leave Granted)Annotate this Case
In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) initiated a child protective proceeding in requesting that the court take jurisdiction of two-year-old JJW and newborn ELW after ELW tested positive for controlled substances at birth. The minor children were removed from the biological parents’ care and placed with foster parents. Both children were eligible for membership in the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. In 2015, the biological parents released their rights to the children; a referee accepted the parents’ releases and entered standard orders terminating the biological parents’ rights. The children’s foster parents petitioned to adopt the children, the Sault Tribe objected, and the court denied the foster parents’ petition. The court committed the children to the Michigan Children’s Institute (MCI) for further case planning. Respondent-father Jack Williams then filed a notice to withdraw his prior consent to the termination of his parental rights and demanded the return of the children under MCL 712B.13(3) of the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA). The court denied Williams’s withdrawal request, reasoning that MCL 712B.13(3) did not apply because Williams had not voluntarily consented to placement for purposes of adoption under MCL 712B.13(3) but instead had released his parental rights to the minor children to DHHS under MCL 710.28. The foster parents appealed the circuit court order denying their adoption petition, and Williams appealed the order denying his motion to withdraw his consent to the termination of his parental rights and for return of the children. The Court of Appeals consolidated the cases, and in a per curiam opinion, vacated the circuit court’s order denying the adoption and remanded for further proceedings. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Williams’s motion to withdraw his consent to the termination of his parental rights and to have his children returned to his custody. Williams believed the plain language of MCL 712B.13(3) entitled him to withdraw his consent because the trial court had not yet entered a final order of adoption for his children. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed, and reversed and remanded this matter for further proceedings.