Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help
In re Amanda N.
Download as PDF
Wordperfect 3
Back to Opinions page

MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	1998 ME 115
Docket:	Yor-97-697
Submitted
 on Briefs:	May 15, 1998
Decided:	May 20, 1998

Panel:  WATHEN, C.J., and ROBERTS, CLIFFORD, RUDMAN, DANA, and SAUFLEY, JJ.




IN RE AMANDA N.
DANA, J.

	[¶1]  The mother of Amanda N. appeals from the judgment of the
District Court (Biddeford, Janelle, J.) that terminated her parental rights to
her daughter after she consented to the termination.  We conclude that the
mother's knowing and voluntary consent to the termination is irrevocable
absent a showing of fraud, duress, mistake, or incapacity and accordingly
affirm the judgment.
	[¶2]  In July 1994, the Department of Human Services obtained
custody of Amanda, who was three years old at that time.  Amanda's mother,
who suffers from Huntington's disease and related mental health
complications, was having difficulty managing her illness and caring for
herself and Amanda, prompting the action by the Department.  Following a
contested hearing on the Department's petition for a child protection order,
the court found that despite her love for and total devotion to Amanda,
certain "involuntary behavioral changes" resulted in the mother "having
difficulty meeting her own needs and [in] not [being] able to take
appropriate care of Amanda or keep her safe."  After making the required
findings that the mother's situation "presents immediate risk of serious
harm to Amanda and continues to present circumstances of jeopardy to the
health and welfare of Amanda," the court (Humphrey, J.) ordered custody of
the child to the Department, with contact between Amanda and her mother
at the direction of the Department.
	[¶3]  At each of four judicial reviews of the child protection order, the
court found that Amanda continued to be in need of protection and
maintained her custody with the Department.  The Department filed a
petition for a termination of parental rights on June 24, 1997, and a hearing
on the petition was held on October 21, 1997, at which the mother was
represented by counsel.  Through counsel and personally, the mother
expressed her desire to consent to the termination and her understanding
of the implications of her decision.  After concluding that the mother "very
clearly [understood] the nature of [the] proceedings and ha[d] knowingly and
voluntarily consented to the termination of her parental rights with respect
to Amanda," the court (Janelle, J.) found that termination was in Amanda's
best interest and ordered the termination.  Four weeks later the mother
informed her counsel that she had changed her mind about the termination
and wished to have a hearing on the matter.  This appeal followed.
	[¶4]  It is clear from the record that the mother has made a good faith
effort to reunify with Amanda.  The court and the Department each
recognized her love and devotion for her daughter and went out of their way
to acknowledge that her inability to care for Amanda was neither voluntary
nor intentional.  Nevertheless, we are not willing to provide the mother with
the judicial relief she requests.
	[¶5]  Although we have never decided a case directly on point with the
one before us, we have held in the analogous context of a parent's surrender
and release in an adoption proceeding that the execution of a release of
parental rights in order to facilitate an adoption is a "completed act of
solemn import . . . which can be set aside only by judicial action on the basis
of fraud, duress, mistake or incapacity."  In re David, 256 A.2d 583, 587-88
(Me. 1969).  The District Court conducted an extensive inquiry into the
mother's understanding of the effect of her consent to the termination, and
she does not allege on appeal that her consent was not knowing or voluntary. 
Nor does she "contend that her signature to the [consent to termination]
was obtained as a result of fraud, duress, mistake or incapacity.  She simply
took an action which she later regretted having taken."  Id. at 585.
	[¶6]  While we recognize the heart-wrenching nature of a decision to
consent to a termination of one's parental rights, we conclude that a child's
interest in the finality of a termination proceeding outweighs a parent's
desire to revoke the consent in circumstances where the consent was
knowingly and voluntarily executed in the absence of fraud, duress, mistake,
or incapacity.
	The entry is:
					Judgment affirmed.

Attorney for appellant: Glenda Lovell, Esq. P O Box 1229 Kennebunkport, ME 04046 Guardian ad Litem: Lloyd P. LaFountain III, Esq. LaFountain & LaFountain P O Box 583 Biddeford, ME 04005-0583 Attorneys for appellee: Andrew Ketterer, Attorney General Janice S. Stuver, Asst. Atty. Gen. Marilyn E. Stavros, Asst. Atty. Gen. 6 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0006