March 8, 2019
- Whether a former parent, who has surrendered all parental rights, can otherwise collaterally attack his surrendering of parental rights and be afforded parenting time under a parenting plan by a showing that he has engaged in parenting time after his surrendering of parental rights.
Sean Pearson (Appellant) appealed an order dismissing his petitions for parenting time for lack of standing. On appeal, the Appellant argued that he should be afforded standing to seek parenting time pursuant to the Court’s holding In the Matter of J.B. & J.G., 157 N.H. 577 (2008).
In addressing the Appellant’s appeal, the Court carefully analyzed the record of events from the earlier court cases. The Appellant is the biological father to a child to the Appellee. Despite being the biological father, the Appellant otherwise surrendered all parental rights related to the child in an action in 2012. In 2014, the Appellant moved to reopen the surrender case, which was denied. In denying the 2014 motion, the Probate Court looked to the recording of the 2012 hearing where the Appellant surrendered his parental rights. The Court found that the Appellant did so freely, voluntarily and knowingly. In 2017, the Appellant filed petitions for parenting time with the child. The Appellee moved to dismiss arguing that the Appellant lacked standing after surrendering his rights in 2012. After an evidentiary hearing where the trial court heard evidence relating the frequency and nature of the Appellant’s contact with the child, the trial court granted the Appellee’s motion to dismiss.
On appeal the Appellant argued that he had “re-established” his parent status by maintaining a relationship with the child after he had surrendered his rights in 2012. In analyzing the instant case under the holding in J.B. & J.G., the Court distinguished the instant case and found that its prior holding was not applicable to the facts presented in Appellant’s case. Specifically, the Court found that the Appellant had surrendered his parental rights in 2012 and was now seeking to collaterally attack that surrender. The Court ultimately ruled that the statutes dealing with surrendering parental rights and adoption govern and that the Appellant lost his right to address the surrender once the Appellee finalized her adoption of the child. Thus, the Court concluded that the Appellant lacked standing to pursue his petitions for parenting time.
John Anthony Simmons, Sr., of Simmons & Ortlieb, PLLC on the brief and orally for the Appellant. Brian D. Kenyon, of Marshall Law, PLLC on the brief and orally for the Appellee.