In the Matter of the Adoption of J.M.M.

796 So. 2d 975 (2001)

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In the Matter of the Adoption of J.M.M.

Mississippi Supreme Court
796 So. 2d 975 (2001)

Facts

Sixteen-year-old M.M. (plaintiff) gave birth to J.M.M. on February 24, 1997, after having kept her pregnancy secret from her mother and father (plaintiffs). The mother and father took M.M. and J.M.M. to the hospital, where they were admitted for two days. The father told M.M. that she and J.M.M. could live with relatives but that J.M.M. could not live in the mother and father’s home. An employee of an adoption agency (the agency) visited M.M. in the hospital, suggested placing J.M.M. for adoption, and explained the adoption process. On February 25, 1997, M.M. and J.M.M. were discharged from the hospital, and M.M. placed J.M.M. in the agency’s care. The following day, another agency employee visited M.M. at home, provided a second explanation of the adoption procedure, and left forms for M.M. and the mother and father to complete, if M.M. chose to relinquish J.M.M. for adoption. On February 27, 1997, M.M. and her mother and father went to the agency to sign the necessary papers. An agency employee gave M.M. a document titled “Surrender of Parental Rights and Consent to Adoption” (the surrender document). M.M. read, initialed, and signed the required documents. J.M.M.’s adoption was final on March 21, 1997. In December 1997, M.M. and the mother and father filed a petition to vacate the adoption decree and return J.M.M. to M.M.’s custody. At trial, M.M. testified that she felt that she had no choice but to consent to the adoption. Testimony further established that M.M. repeatedly confirmed her understanding and assent to the surrender document. Finally, testimony established that M.M. did not want to live with J.M.M. and relatives because she wanted to go home. The chancery court found that M.M. validly surrendered her parental rights and denied M.M.’s petition. M.M. and the mother and father appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Smith, J.)

Dissent (McRae, J.)

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