South Carolina Supreme Court Decision on 9/29/2014

scsctBrown v. Baby Girl Harper involves an adoption gone wrong.

Holly Lawrence, the birth mother, agreed to allow Adoptive Mother to adopt Baby Girl Harper.  Arrangements for the adoption and necessary documents were made in Adoptive Mother’s attorney’s office in Charleston.  At this time, a witness, as required by S.C Code of Laws Section 63-9-330(a), signed the adoption consent form, noting that she had witnessed the Birth Mother’s consent.  Baby Girl Harper was then transferred to the Adoptive Mother while Lawrence returned home to North Carolina.  After five days, Lawrence decided to revoke her consent to the adoption and sent the Adoptive Mother’s attorney a registered letter, doing so.

The Charleston Family Court held a hearing to determine the validity of the Birth Mother’s consent.  After listening to the witness testify, the Court concluded that the strict requirements of Section 63-9-330(a) were not complied with.  The witness had not been in the room to observe the Birth Mother’s signature on the consent form as required by the statue.  The Court noted that “…South Carolina has a long history of strict construction of adoption statutes….”  Since these requirements had not been satisfied, the Court concluded that the consent was invalid and ordered the transfer of Baby Girl Harper back to the birth mother, Holly Lawrence.  The South Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the Family Court decision.  The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of both lower courts, holding that the statue required strict compliance that had not been satisfied in this case.  The Supreme Court then ordered “…the transfer of Baby Girl to Birth Mother.”

About Lisa Smith-Butler

Associate Professor of Law Charleston School of Law 385 Meeting St., Suite 322B Charleston, S.C. 29403 843.377.2144
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