The Ohio State Supreme Court ruled that a father who killed the mother of his children can fight the children’s adoption.
The ruling allows the father to attempt to block his two daughters from being adopted by their maternal grandparents after they took custody of them after their mother was killed. The state Supreme Court ruled in his favor because he had a good reason for not contacting the children: he was following a judge’s order, the Associated Press reported.
Under Ohio law, adoptions don’t need parental consent if there is proof the parent has had little to no contact with the child for a year before filing adoption papers.
The court rules 4-3 on Thursday that the father of the two girls, identified as A.K. and C.K., could object to their maternal grandparents legally adopting them. Justice Melody J. Stewart wrote in the decision that the father’s compliance with a court’s “no contact order” exempts him from the contact requirement in Ohio adoption cases.
According to the court records, which don’t identify the parties’ names, the father of two girls was convicted of murdering their mother in 2007 and was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison. The girl’s maternal grandparents took legal custody and he was ordered to have no contact.
In 2015, the grandparents filed for adoption, but the father had attempted to block it. He was denied by a court that ruled it would be unjust for him to use his imprisonment as a reason for him not contacting his daughters since his actions led to him being behind bars.
In 2019, the state Supreme Court ruled in a similar case when a woman tried to stop her child’s father, who was not paying child support, from objecting to her new husband adopting their child. The court ruled in favor of the father, saying he was following a court order that eliminated his responsibility for support payments, AP reported.
The Ohio father who killed his wife petitioned for a new hearing based on the 2019 decision and the 8th District Court of Appeals ruled in his favor. The grandparents appealed the decision and the state Supreme Court heard the case and ruled in the father’s favor on Thursday.
Justice Sharon L. Kennedy dissented, saying the 2019 ruling involved a different set of facts and the lower court’s previous ruling blocking the father from fighting the adoption should have stayed in place.
The majority’s opinion “creates an unacceptable consequence for the children in this case: an inability to enjoy their right to an intact childhood and a loving adoptive family,” she wrote.
Rebecca Clark, the grandparents’ attorney, said they are saddened by the ruling and that they started the adoption process because it would allow the girls to look at educational opportunities since they are severely autistic and will never live alone, AP reported.
“My clients would never have moved for adoption for any other reason,” Clark added, according to AP.
The father’s attorney, Mary Catherine Barrett, said he mainly fought the adoption so his own mother and family members can stay in contact with his daughters, not to disrupt their situation, AP added.
Update 2/14/22, 12:22 p.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information.