IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF THE CHILD KNOWN AS J. Q. P., a Minor Child
CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON OCTOBER 2, 2017
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
LAWRENCE COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE MICHELLE K. COMER
E. BRADY of Lynn, Jackson, Shultz & LeBrun, PC Spearfish,
South Dakota Attorneys for petitioners and appellants, K. H.
& K. H.
ANN WENDELL Pierre, South Dakota JOAN SCHUELLER Pierre, South
Dakota Attorneys for respondent and appellee, G. L. P.
Mother and Stepfather (Petitioners) petitioned to have
Stepfather adopt Mother's child without the biological
father's consent. The circuit court denied the petition,
concluding Petitioners failed to show that the biological
father had abandoned the child. We affirm.
and Procedural History
G.L.P. (Father) and K.H. (Mother) are the biological parents
of J.Q.P. Mother became pregnant with J.Q.P. in December
2007, three months after Mother and Father began dating. Both
parents were living and working in Spearfish at the time, and
Father moved in with Mother in 2008.
On August 4, 2008, Father and Mother were hosting a barbeque
at their home for Father's friends in the Marines who
were returning home. A pan in the kitchen caught fire, and
Father suffered first, second, and third-degree burns on
thirty percent of his body in the accident. Father's
injuries required intensive burn care in Colorado, where he
remained for approximately one month.
As a result of his injuries, Father was prescribed a strong
narcotic and was required to wear a compression suit for one
year. Skin grafts caused Father to have difficulty bending
his arm and required the use of a walker. During this time,
Mother cared for both Father and J.Q.P. Father, who was
unable to work due to his injuries, cared for J.Q.P. when
Mother was at work.
At some point, Father voluntarily stopped taking his pain
medication so that he could drive to required medical
appointments. However, he began experiencing increased pain,
alternating insomnia and hypersomnia, cold sweats,
irritability, and mood swings. In order to ease his pain,
Father smoked marijuana prior to physical therapy
appointments on three or four occasions. Although Father
initially denied marijuana use, he admitted to its use after
Mother found marijuana residue in their garbage. In November
2008, Mother demanded Father leave the home and he complied.
Mother hired an attorney to draft a visitation agreement.
According to Father, the proposed agreement only permitted a
single, two-hour supervised visitation period each week at
Mother's parents' home. Additionally, in order to
obtain the visitation, Father would have been required to pay
child support, be consistently employed for ninety days, pass
drug tests, live independently in his own residence, and
regularly attend counseling. These terms differed from the
unsigned visitation agreement in the record, which provided
that Father would immediately have supervised visitation once
a week for two hours and Mother and Father would revise
visitation if Father complied with the aforementioned terms.
In any event, Father did attend one counseling session, but
both he and the counselor agreed that counseling was not
necessary because Father was working through a traumatic
event from which it would take time to recover. Father
objected to the remaining terms and never signed the
agreement. He believed the terms were too stringent given his
limited ability to work and his lack of money due to medical
In January 2009, believing he could not support himself in
Spearfish, Father moved in with his parents and family in
Colome and continued his therapy. Colome is a four-hour drive
from Spearfish. Father testified he would frequently text
Mother telling her he wanted to see J.Q.P. Mother, however,
said he could only have two hours of supervised visitation if
he drove to Spearfish. In May 2009, Father scheduled a
two-hour supervised visit at a facility in Rapid City. He
exercised that visitation in a locked room under supervision.
Father continued to ask Mother about J.Q.P. and visitation,
but Mother either denied his requests or demanded he come to
Spearfish. In September or October 2009, Mother sought and
obtained child support.[*] She also informed Father that if he
attempted to contact her again, she would report him to law
enforcement or obtain a protection order. She then blocked