M.A.S. v. Mississippi Department of Human ServicesAnnotate this Case
Prior to April 2016, a chancellor could, as part of a contested adoption, terminate the parents’ rights, even when the termination issue was pending in youth court as part of a child-abuse proceeding. In April 2016, the adoption and termination-of-parental-rights statutes changed. Now, a chancellor cannot grant an adoption contested by the parents unless the parents’ rights have been terminated under the Mississippi Termination of Parental Rights Law (MTPRL). Under the MTPRL, the Mississippi Legislature carved out an important exception to the chancery court’s jurisdiction over termination proceedings, giving “a county court, when sitting as a youth court with jurisdiction of a child in an abuse or neglect proceeding, original exclusive jurisdiction to hear a petition for termination of parental rights against a parent of that child.” In this contested adoption, the chancellor applied the MTPRL and recognized the youth court had exclusive jurisdiction over the request to terminate parental rights because the youth court already had jurisdiction over the child as part of an abuse proceeding. And unless and until the youth court terminated the parents’ rights, the chancery court could not grant the petition to adopt the child. For this reason, the chancellor dismissed the adoption so the termination could be pursued in youth court. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the chancellor correctly interpreted and applied the controlling law when he dismissed the adoption petition, the Supreme Court affirmed.