C. J., MILLER, P. J., and REESE, J.
closed adoption case, the potential adoptive parents of a
child appeal from the trial court's order to provide
notice of the pending adoption proceedings to the child's
alleged biological father. The Appellants allege that the lower
court: (1) improperly disregarded the legal effect of an
underlying termination order; (2) failed to recognize and
apply the purpose and intent of the Georgia Putative Father
Registry; and (3) failed to recognize the legal
distinction between the notice requirements for alleged
biological fathers and legal fathers. For the reasons set
forth infra, we reverse.
record shows that the subject child was born on November 1,
2015. The child's biological mother relinquished her
parental rights in favor of a licensed child-placement
agency, which facilitated the adoptive placement of the child
with the Appellants. In her affidavit, which she provided
pursuant to OCGA § 19-8-26 (h), the biological mother
did not identify her child's biological father. She
stated that she and the biological father were not married,
explaining that the child was the result of a one-time sexual
encounter. The child-placement agency searched the Georgia
Putative Father Registry and found no registrant who had
asserted a paternal interest in the child. On January 12,
2016, the trial court entered an order terminating the
parental rights of the biological mother and any unknown,
unnamed biological father.
the week of January 25, 2016, a man contacted the agency and
"verbally claimed paternity of the child."
According to the Appellants, he refused to provide his
address and refused to meet with the agency to discuss his
claim. When the Appellants filed their petition to adopt on
February 2, 2016, their counsel informed the trial court that
an alleged biological father had recently contacted the
agency. The trial court entered a sua sponte order on
February 4, 2016, directing the Appellants to obtain the
alleged biological father's contact information and serve
him with a copy of the termination order and a copy of the
adoption petition. The trial court's order also stated
that the alleged biological father had 15 days from the date
of service to file a motion to set aside the termination
order. This appeal followed.
an adoption case, the trial judge sits as both judge and jury
and is vested with a broad range of legal
discretion." On appeal, "we construe the evidence
to uphold the trial court's findings and judgment and
affirm if there is any evidence to support the
findings." If there are questions of law, however, we
apply a de novo standard of review. With these guiding
principles in mind, we turn now to the Appellants'
specific claims of error.
Appellants argue that the trial court improperly disregarded
the legal effect of the underlying termination order. We
§ 15-11-283 (c) provides as follows:
If the identity of the biological father whose rights are
sought to be terminated is not known to the petitioner or the
petitioner's attorney and the biological father would not
be entitled to notice in accordance with subsection (a) of
this Code section,  then it shall be rebuttably presumed that
he is not entitled to notice of the [termination]
proceedings. The court shall be authorized to require the
mother to execute an affidavit supporting the presumption or
show cause before the court if she refuses. Absent evidence
rebutting the presumption, no further inquiry or notice shall
be required by the court, and the court may enter an order
terminating the rights of the biological father.
case, the mother executed an affidavit in which she swore
under oath that she and the biological father had a one-time
encounter that resulted in the pregnancy and that the
identity of the biological father was unknown to her.
Further, there is no evidence that any man claiming to be the
biological father provided any financial support for the
mother or child, lived with the child, or made any attempts
to legitimate the child before the court issued the
termination order. Finally, a certificate of a search of the
Georgia Putative Father Registry was filed that indicated
that no man had acknowledged paternity of the child or
indicated possible paternity of a child born to the
child's mother. Under these circumstances, the trial
court properly concluded that the unknown biological father
was not entitled to notice of the termination proceedings,
pursuant to OCGA § 15-11-283 (c).
the trial court terminated the rights to "any unknown,
unnamed biological father" of the child, the alleged
biological father who subsequently contacted the agency, was
no longer "entitled to notice of proceedings for the
adoption of his . . . child by another, " nor did he
have "any right to object to the adoption or otherwise
to participate in such proceedings." Consequently,
because the termination order in this case has not been set
aside,  the alleged biological father was not
entitled to any notice of the adoption proceedings. It
follows that the trial court erred in ordering the Appellants
to provide him with such notice through the documents listed
in its February 4, 2016 order.
light of our decision in Division 1, supra, the
Appellants' remaining enumerations of error are
C.J., and ...