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Lemley v. Barr

343 S.E.2d 101 (1986)

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Lemley v. Barr

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

343 S.E.2d 101 (1986)

Facts

On January 30, 1981, 17-year-old Tammy L. Lemley (plaintiff), an Ohio resident, gave birth. Lemley was encouraged by the child’s father to relinquish her parental rights so that the child could be adopted. On May 5, Lemley met with attorneys but decided not to consent to relinquishing her parental rights. However, Lemley gave her consent the following day. Although Ohio law required a judge to approve a minor’s consent to relinquish her parental rights, no judge was involved. The attorneys then released the child to Gene and Anna Barr (defendants), who lived in West Virginia. On May 9, Lemley turned 18. On May 11, Lemley was informed by the attorneys that more paperwork was required, and Lemley signed additional papers. Hours later, Lemley’s parents met with the attorneys and demanded the child be returned. The attorneys refused. The following week, Lemley and the child’s father made the same demand. Again, the attorneys refused to provide assistance or divulge the child’s whereabouts. Lemley and her parents filed a suit in an Ohio court, seeking the return of the child into their custody. In September 1981, the court found that Lemley’s consent to relinquish her parental rights was invalid because she was under duress and lacked a full understanding of the implications. The matter was appealed. While the appeal was pending, the Barrs, aware of the suit, formally adopted the child in November 1981. The court’s decision in Lemley’s suit was affirmed in August 1983. Lemley was then informed that the child had been adopted and filed a suit in West Virginia to force the Barrs to relinquish the child. The trial court refused to vacate the adoption. Lemley appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Neely, J.)

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