Summary of Decision December 24, 2013
Justice Davis delivered the opinion of the Court. We dismiss the appeal and remand to the district court with instructions to vacate the portion of the order accepting the relinquishment and consent.
Case Name: IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS TO:
E.R.C.K., Minor Child, V.L.K v. STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES
Docket Number: S-13-0091
Appeal from the District Court of Albany County the Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge
Representing Appellant: Peggy A. Trent, Trent Law Office, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Interim Wyoming Attorney General; Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Shawnna M. Herron, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Herron.
Guardian ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy Public Defender and Program Administrator; Aaron S. Hockman, Guardian ad Litem and Permanency Attorney, Wyoming Guardians ad Litem Program. Argument by Mr. Hockman.
Date of Decision: December 24, 2013
Facts: The Department of Family Services sought to terminate V.L.K.’s parental rights to her son, E.R.C.K., after its efforts to reunify the family in neglect proceedings were unsuccessful. V.L.K. failed to answer the Department’s petition, and default was entered. She was subsequently appointed counsel. The district court declined to set aside the default when asked to do so. During the course of the default termination hearing, V.L.K. decided to relinquish her parental rights and consent to adoption of E.R.C.K. The district court recessed the hearing, and V.L.K. provided a signed and acknowledged relinquishment and consent. The district court entered an order accepting the relinquishment and consent, and there were no further termination proceedings.
V.L.K. claims that the district court erred in not setting aside the default and in accepting the relinquishment and consent. We find her decision to provide the relinquishment and consent rendered any claimed error in declining to lift the default moot, and that the order accepting the relinquishment and consent is not appealable. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal, but remand with instructions for the district court to vacate the portion of the order accepting the relinquishment and consent purporting to divest V.L.K. of her parental rights because this portion of the order is a nullity.
Issues: 1) Did V.L.K.’s provision of an admittedly voluntary relinquishment and consent to adoption render any error in not lifting an entry of default moot? 2) Is the order accepting the relinquishment and consent appealable under Wyoming Rule of Appellate Procedure 1.05?
Holdings/Conclusion: We find V.L.K.’s challenge to the entry of default moot in light of her decision to sign a relinquishment and consent to adoption. We also find the district court’s order not to be appealable. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal and remand to the district court with instructions to vacate the portion of the order accepting the relinquishment and consent purporting to divest VLK of her parental rights.
Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Summary of Decision December 24, 2013