Boseman v. Jarrell

 704 S.E. 2d 494 (2010)

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Boseman v. Jarrell

North Carolina Supreme Court

 704 S.E. 2d 494 (2010)

Facts

Julia Boseman (plaintiff) and Melissa Jarrell (defendant) began a romantic relationship with the intention of having a child. Boseman and Jarrell eventually decided that Jarrell would bear the child, but both would participate in the conception process. Boseman and Jarrell did everything together, including choosing a sperm donor and attending medical appointments for prenatal and postnatal care. Boseman cared for Jarrell during pregnancy and was present during delivery. Following birth, the couple held themselves out as parents and shared the burden of parenting. Their child referred to Boseman and Jarrell as mom and mother, respectively. Both Boseman and Jarrell acknowledged that the other was a good parent. In 2004 the couple set out to have Boseman adopt their child, because Jarrell was the biological and legal parent. The couple asked a district court to make Boseman an adoptive parent without terminating Jarrell’s legal status as a parent. North Carolina law (the statute) required such a termination. Nevertheless, Jarrell conceded to the adoption, and a district court entered an adoption decree, contingent on nonenforcement of the statute. The decree provided that an adoptive relationship was formed between Boseman and the child while simultaneously not severing the parent-child relationship between Jarrell and the child. Because the Division of Social Services would not index such an adoption, the court instructed the clerk not to supply a copy, as required by the statute, and ordered that the decree be maintained in the clerk’s office. In 2006 Boseman and Jarrell broke up, but Boseman continued to provide financial support for their child. Boseman filed a complaint seeking custody of the child, in reliance on the adoption decree. Jarrell responded by contending that the adoption decree was void ab initio and, consequently, Boseman could not seek custody. The trial court awarded Boseman and Jarell joint custody, reasoning that it could not invalidate an adoption decree from another judicial district. The court of appeals affirmed the ruling, finding the adoption decree to be valid. Jarrell appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Newby, J.)

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