Filing an Adoption in the Wrong District Court is Ripe a Transfer, Not a Dismissal

December 6, 2018

In re adoption of B.N.A.20180316-CA 2 2018 UT App 224 (filed December 6, 2018).

The court itself provided a terrific summary of this Adoption jurisdiction case:  "Utah adoption law provides that “[a]doption proceedings shall be commenced by filing a petition with the clerk of the district court . . . in the district where the prospective adoptive parent resides.” Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-105(1)(a) (LexisNexisSupp. 2018). In this case, we must determine what the consequences are, under this statute, if prospective adoptive parents file an adoption petition in the wrong district. The biological father (Father) of the child in question (Child)contends that the statute speaks to a court’s subject-matter jurisdiction, and asserts that a petition filed in the wrong district must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The prospective adoptive parents (Petitioners), on the other hand, contend that the statute speaks simply to venue, and assert that when a petition is filed in the wrong district, the court has jurisdiction to continue to adjudicate the case, but must transfer the case upon request to the proper district. For the reasons set forth herein, we find Petitioners’ position persuasive, and therefore affirm the district court’s decision to deny Father’s motion to dismiss."

The court then discusses the history and "special" attributes of subject matter jurisdiction and two specific situations of limiting the court's subject matter jurisdiction (statutory and the timing and other limits on court generally). The court concludes and neither of the categories are found in this case and concludes: "For these reasons, we conclude that Utah Code section 78B-6-105(1)(a) speaks to venue, and does not limit a court’s subject-matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, unless the adoption is one that must be filed in juvenile court pursuant to Utah Code section 78A-6-103(1)(o), see Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-105(1)(c), any district court has subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate an adoption case, even one filed in the wrong district, but must transfer the case to the correct district upon the filing of a proper request. Cf. id. § 78B-3-308 (stating that, when a case is filed in the wrong venue, a party may file “a written motion requesting the trial be moved to the proper county”)."

TO read the entire opinion, CLICK HERE.

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