Like everyone and everything in life, the judicial system isn’t perfect. Mistakes are made. Sometimes, these mistakes can result in an improper verdict or decision. Adoption proceedings are no different. Fortunately, our judicial system provides individuals with the opportunity to appeal certain rulings or decisions believed to be wrongly decided. But what all can be appealed in adoption proceedings? Can a trial court’s denial of a petition for adoption be appealed? Are there any limitations? In this blog, we look at when you can appeal a trial court’s ruling on adoption and provide some considerations for you to keep in mind when deciding whether to appeal.
In Indiana, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction in all appeals from final judgments.1 A final judgment is one that disposes of all the claims as to all the parties.2 Aside from specific situations, the general rule is that you can only appeal what is known as a “final order.” In Indiana, a trial court’s ruling on a petition to adoption is considered a “final order” and can therefore be appealed. It is important to note; however, that the Court of Appeals, in “reviewing an adoption case . . . presume[s] that the trial court’s decision is correct, and the appellant bears the burden of rebutting this presumption.”3 Thus, if you decide you want to appeal a trial court’s denial of a petition to adopt, you will have the burden on appeal of proving that the trial court committed error.
Yet, you may be wondering, “does the Court of Appeals actually overturn a trial court’s denial of a petition to adopt?” Yes, they do. In fact, in a recent decision, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court’s denial of a stepmother’s petition to adopt was “clearly erroneous” and reversed the trial court’s judgment.4
Deciding whether to appeal a denial of a petition for adoption is ultimately a decision only you can make. However, there are certain considerations that you can keep in mind in deciding whether to take your case to the appellate courts. First, one thing to keep in mind in making your decision is the timing of filing an appeal. In order to preserve your right to appeal, the general rule is that you must file your notice of appeal within 30 days of the court’s entry of your custody order. Another consideration when deciding whether to appeal is the alleged errors committed in the proceeding. For example, in some circumstances, there may be mistakes made during the proceedings that were relatively small mistakes that don’t affect the substance of the decision. On the other hand, there may be mistakes, such as evidentiary mistakes, that make the alleged errors a much bigger deal, increasing your likelihood of success.
The above information is general in nature, and there are exceptions to almost every rule. Appellate practice is extremely technical. If you believe the court wrongly decided your adoption matter, or there were issues in your trial, obtaining skilled counsel is key to navigating the complex waters of appeals. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle all types of appeals, be it civil or criminal, throughout Indiana. This blog is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.