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Groves v. Clark

920 P.2d 981 (1996)

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Groves v. Clark

Montana Supreme Court

920 P.2d 981 (1996)

Facts

In 1994, Debbie Groves (plaintiff) relinquished custody of her three-year-old child, Laci, and placed her with Lutheran Social Services (LSS). Lonn and Loralee Clark (defendants) knew Groves and requested that Groves allow them to adopt Laci through LSS. Groves consented upon the condition that the Clarks agreed to allow visitation. In January 1994, Groves and the Clarks entered into a notarized post-adoption visitation agreement. Groves was allowed to visit with Laci at any time after giving the Clarks notice and to speak with Laci on the phone as often as Groves wanted. Two weeks after signing the agreement, Groves relinquished her parental rights over Laci and consented to the adoption. On February 2, 1994, a court terminated Groves’s parental rights. On September 23, 1994, a court granted the Clarks’ petition to adopt Laci. The post-adoption visitation agreement was not mentioned at either proceeding. However, the Clarks continued to comply with the agreement until June 1995. In July 1995, Groves sued the Clarks for specific performance of the agreement. The district court ruled that the agreement was void on statutory and caselaw grounds. The district court relied on Section 40-8-125, MCA, which provides that a natural parent has no rights over a child after a final adoption decree. Additionally, the district court relied on In re C.P., in which this court interpreted Section 40-8-125 to mean that a natural parent has no rights concerning the child after a final adoption decree. Groves appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Trieweiler, J.)

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