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Michigan Supreme Court to hear adoption rights case

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Michigan Hall of Justice.

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear a challenge that could upend a law that allows birth parents to anonymously drop off newborns at a hospital, shelter, fire department, or other safe space.

The case deals with a complex set of facts that revolve around a couple’s troubled relationship, divorce and her decision to surrender the infant for adoption without naming her ex-husband as the father.

Much of the confusion stems from the fact that there were two separate cases dealing with the divorce and custody that proceeded simultaneously in two counties. The result was a court in Ottawa County granting custody to the ex-husband as a judge in Kalamazoo County terminated his parental rights.

That was a surprise to Peter Kruithoff, the ex-husband, who did not find out his parental rights had been terminated until after the child had been placed with a family.

“We’re all entitled to due process and having a child and raising a child is a fundamental constitutional right,” said his attorney, Michael Villar.

Villar told Michigan Public Radio the adoption agency made only a token effort find his client, and that wasn’t fair to Kruithoff or to the couple that adopted the child.

“Those are both terrible human tragedies and from our perspective, they could have been overcome had reasonable efforts been made to find my client and allow him to have his day in court about his parental rights with his child,” he said.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled for Kruithoff in a split decision handed down in August.

The child is now three years old and living with his adoptive family.

“We have two adoptive parents who legally have adopted this child and are the only family this child has ever known,” said Liisa Speaker. She is the attorney for the adoptive parents.

“Part of the reason it’s fairly complex is because an adoption has already happened,” she said. “Usually if there is going to be litigation, that’s all going to be happening before an adoption occurs. Here it happened after the fact.”

Speaker says the appeals court decision would deter women who might otherwise simply abandon a child from making the safer choice.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on April 27th.

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