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Adoption of a Minor

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex

May 7, 2015

Adoption of a Minor

Argued: March 2, 2015.

Petition filed in the Middlesex Division of the Probate and Family Court Department on April 25, 2014.

A motion to proceed without further notice was heard by Jeffrey A. Abber, J., and a question of law was reported by him to the Appeals Court.

The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

Patience Crozier for the petitioners.

Kari Hong, of California, & Mary L. Bonauto & Vickie Henry, for American Academy of Adoption Attorneys & others, amici curiae, submitted a brief.

Present: Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.

OPINION

Duffly, J.

The petitioners, J.S. and V.K, a married same-sex couple, filed a joint petition for adoption in the Probate and Family Court, seeking to adopt their son Nicholas.[1] Nicholas was born to J.S. in 2014, during the petitioners' marriage. He was conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF),[2] using a known

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sperm donor[3] selected by J.S. and V.K., whose names appear on his birth certificate. The petitioners sought to adopt their son as a means of ensuring recognition of their parentage when they travel outside the Commonwealth, or in the event of their relocation to a State where same-sex marriage is not recognized.

The petitioners filed a motion to proceed with the adoption without further notice, arguing that, as Nicholas's lawful parents, they could consent to the adoption, no other consent was necessary, and no notice to any other person was required under G. L. c. 210, § 4. While recognizing the petitioners as Nicholas's legal parents in Massachusetts, a Probate and Family Court judge issued an interlocutory order denying the motion, and reserving and reporting to the Appeals Court the question " whether the lawful parents of a child must give notice to the known biological father/sperm donor pursuant to G. L. c. 210, § 2," in conjunction with their petition for adoption. We transferred the case to this court on our own motion to consider the correctness of the judge's ruling. See Roberts v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. of Boston, Inc., 438 Mass. 187, 188, 779 N.E.2d 623 & n.4 (2002), citing O'Brien v. Dwight, 363 Mass. 256, 276, 294 N.E.2d 363 (1973).[4] We conclude that G. L. c. 210, § 2, does not require the lawful parents of a child to give notice of the petition for adoption to a known sperm donor and, accordingly, answer the reported question, " No."

Discussion.

Adoption of children in the Commonwealth is governed by G. L. c. 210 (adoption statute). " The law of adoption is purely statutory, Davis v. McGraw, 206 Mass. 294, 297, 92 N.E. 332 (1910), and the governing statute, G. L. c. 210[ ], is to be strictly followed in all its essential particulars. Purinton v. Jamrock, 195 Mass. 187, 197, 80 N.E. 802 (1907)." Adoption of Tammy, 416 Mass. 205, 210, 619 N.E.2d 315 (1993). We interpret a statute by looking " first to its language as the 'principal source of insight into legislative intent.'" Adoption of Daisy, 460 Mass. 72, 76, 948 N.E.2d 1239 (2011), quoting Water Dep't of ...


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