Dean S. v. State, Department of Health & Social Services

In Dean S. v. State, Department of Health & Social Services,[1] the supreme court held that a superior court’s procedurally proper denial of a motion to withdraw consent to adoption will not be overturned absent clear error established by a “definite impression” of factual error in the record. Dean and Emily S. were investigated by the Office of Children’s Services (“OCS”) over a seven-year period for mostly unsubstantiated claims of substance abuse and neglect; OCS took custody over their children twice in that period. Ultimately, OCS sought termination of their parental rights, and both parents executed valid consents to adoption by Dean’s sister. Dean subsequently moved to withdraw his consent, claiming a desire for full custody and arguing that he had worked to improve himself as a parent. Applying the best interests of the child standard, the superior court denied Dean’s motion, relying on the OCS caseworker’s testimony that the children were thriving in Dean’s sister’s custody. The supreme court held that where the record does not show a clear factual error by the superior court, the superior court’s decision to deny a motion for withdrawal of consent to adoption will not be overturned. The supreme court explained that ten days after consent to adoption is given, section 25.23.070 of the Alaska Statutes only allows it to be withdrawn if doing so is in the best interest of the child as determined by a hearing including the petitioner, the person seeking withdrawal, and the agency placing the child up for adoption. The supreme court determined that the record did not give a “definite impression” that the superior court’s conclusion was in error as Dean’s testimony could be understood to say that withdrawing consent was in his best interest, not the children’s. Affirming the superior court, the supreme court held that a superior court decision to deny a motion to withdraw consent to adoption will not be overturned absent clear error established by a “definite impression” of factual error in the record.

[1] 420 P.3d 1175 (Alaska 2018).

Dean S. v. State, Department of Health & Social Services

In Dean S. v. State, Department of Health & Social Services,[1] the supreme court held that a superior court’s procedurally proper denial of a motion to withdraw consent to adoption will not be overturned absent clear error established by a “definite impression” of factual error in the record. Dean and Emily S. were investigated by the Office of Children’s Services (“OCS”) over a seven-year period for mostly unsubstantiated claims of substance abuse and neglect; OCS took custody over their children twice in that period. Ultimately, OCS sought termination of their parental rights, and both parents executed valid consents to adoption by Dean’s sister. Dean subsequently moved to withdraw his consent, claiming a desire for full custody and arguing that he had worked to improve himself as a parent. Applying the best interests of the child standard, the superior court denied Dean’s motion, relying on the OCS caseworker’s testimony that the children were thriving in Dean’s sister’s custody. The supreme court held that where the record does not show a clear factual error by the superior court, the superior court’s decision to deny a motion for withdrawal of consent to adoption will not be overturned. The supreme court explained that ten days after consent to adoption is given, section 25.23.070 of the Alaska Statutes only allows it to be withdrawn if doing so is in the best interest of the child as determined by a hearing including the petitioner, the person seeking withdrawal, and the agency placing the child up for adoption. The supreme court determined that the record did not give a “definite impression” that the superior court’s conclusion was in error as Dean’s testimony could be understood to say that withdrawing consent was in his best interest, not the children’s. Affirming the superior court, the supreme court held that a superior court decision to deny a motion to withdraw consent to adoption will not be overturned absent clear error established by a “definite impression” of factual error in the record.

[1] 420 P.3d 1175 (Alaska 2018).