Circuit Court Family Division LC No. 16-005854-NB;
Before: O'Connell, P.J., and Beckering and Stephens, JJ.
Adoption Associates, a child placement agency, appeals by
leave granted the trial court's order denying petitions
to terminate parental rights concerning children surrendered
under the Safe Delivery of Newborns Law, MCL 712.1 et
seq. The trial court concluded that the Safe Delivery of
Newborns Law only applied to the mother of the surrendered
children but not to the legal father. We reverse.
August 2016, a woman gave birth to twins. She surrendered the
twins to the hospital the day after they were born under the
Safe Delivery of Newborns Law. The surrendering mother did
not provide her address or marital status, she gave no other
indication that she was married, and she declined to identify
the father. Adoption Associates took custody of the children
and placed them with prospective adoptive parents. In
September 2016, the adoption agency filed petitions to
terminate the parental rights of the surrendering parent and
the nonsurrendering parent.
September 2016, Adoption Associates requested the
children's birth certificates for purposes of the
adoption. In October 2016, the Vital Records Office notified
the agency that it could not provide the birth certificates
because of an "unresolved paternity issue." After
the Vital Records Office learned that the mother was married,
although it is not clear how, it produced birth certificates
in December 2016 listing the mother's husband as the
development raised the issue whether the adoption agency had
a duty to notify the man listed as the father on the birth
certificates about the surrender of the children. The
adoption agency protested that it did not. In a written
order, the trial court concluded that the Safe Delivery of
Newborns Law only applied to the mother in this case, but not
the legal father identified on the birth certificates.
case concerns the intersection of the Safe Delivery of
Newborns Law with the presumption of legitimacy. We review
questions of statutory interpretation de novo. Parks v
Parks, 304 Mich.App. 232, 237; 850 N.W.2d 595 (2014).
The primary goal of statutory interpretation is to effectuate
the Legislature's intent. Sinicropi v Mazurek,
273 Mich.App. 149, 156; 729 N.W.2d 256 (2006). We do so by
applying the statute as written if it is unambiguous.
Parks, 304 Mich.App. at 237-238.
Court reads the statute as a whole and generally reads
statutes covering the same subject matter together.
Sinicropi, 273 Mich.App. at 157. However, the Safe
Delivery of Newborns Law provides that neither "a
provision in another chapter of this act" nor the Child
Custody Act, MCL 722.21 et seq., apply to the Safe
Delivery of Newborns Law unless specifically stated. MCL
DELIVERY OF NEWBORNS LAW
Safe Delivery of Newborns Law "encourage[s] parents of
unwanted newborns to deliver them to emergency service
providers instead of abandoning them[.]" People v
Schaub, 254 Mich.App. 110, 115 n 1; 656 N.W.2d 824
(2002). The statute permits a parent to surrender a child to
an emergency service provider within 72 hours of the
child's birth. MCL 712.1(2)(k); MCL 712.3(1). When the
emergency service provider takes temporary custody of the
child, the emergency service provider must reasonably try to
inform the parent that surrendering the child begins the
adoption process and that the parent has 28 days to petition
for custody of the child. MCL 712.3(1)(b) and (c). The
emergency service provider must furnish the parent with
written notice about the legal custody process. MCL
712.3(1)(d). The emergency service provider should also try
to inform the parent that, before the child can be adopted,
"the state is required to make a reasonable attempt to
identify the other parent, and then ask the parent to
identify the other parent." MCL 712.3(2)(e). Finally,
the emergency service provider must take the newborn to a
hospital, if the child was not born in the hospital, and the
hospital must take temporary protective custody of the child.
MCL 712.5(1). The hospital then notifies a child placement
agency about the surrender, and the child placement agency
has various obligations, including making "reasonable
efforts to identify, locate, and provide notice of the
surrender of the newborn to the nonsurrendering parent"
within 28 days, which may require "publication in a
newspaper of general circulation . . . ." MCL 712.7(f).
the surrendering parent or the nonsurrendering parent may
file a petition to gain custody of the child within 28 days
of surrender and published notice of surrender, respectively.
MCL 712.10(1). If neither the surrendering parent nor the
nonsurrendering parent files a petition for custody within 28
days of surrender or notice of surrender, the child placement
agency must immediately file a petition with the court to
terminate the rights of the surrendering parent and the
nonsurrendering parent. MCL 712.17(2) and (3). The agency
"shall present evidence that demonstrates that the
surrendering parent released the newborn and that
demonstrates the efforts made by the child placing agency to
identify, locate, and provide notice to the nonsurrendering
parent." MCL 712.17(4). If the agency meets its burden
of proof by a preponderance of the evidence, the trial
"court shall enter an order terminating parental rights
of the surrendering parent and ...