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In re E.

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 28, 1968

In re the Termination of the Parental Rights of E [*].

Page 627

Appeal from the Orphans' Court in and for New Castle County.

Peter Warren Green, of Booker, Leshem, Green & Shaffer, Wilmington, for appellant.

Daniel B. Ferry, Wilmington, for appellees.

WOLCOTT, C.J., and CAREY and HERRMANN, JJ., sitting.

WOLCOTT, Chief Justice:

This is an appeal from an order of the Orphans' Court terminating the parental rights of the mother of a minor child. We will refer to the mother of the child as E, and to the foster parents of the child as B and B.

By 13 Del.C. § 1103(2), it is provided that parental rights in a child may be terminated if the 'child has been abandoned.' By 13 Del.C. § 1101, an 'abandoned' child is one 'who, for a period of one year, has not received any regular and reasonable financial help from or any substantial visits from his parent or parents.'

We have read the record in this case and are of the opinion that there is substantial evidence to support the trial judge's finding that there has been an 'abandonment' by E within the meaning of the statute. [1] In reaching this conclusion, he accepted and relied on the testimony of B and B with whom the minor child has been living for all of her eight years, except for a few weeks' stay with E when she was under the age of six months.

The trial judge reached the conclusion that there had been a statutory abandonment by E despite one short visit by her to the child and a gift to her in December of 1965. He held, and we think properly, that an annual formal visit did not satisfy the statute's requirement of 'substantial visits.'

Furthermore, we note, as did the trial judge, that E lived relatively close to the child, had a readily available means of travel, passed within a few miles of the child on recurrent trips from New Jersey to Baltimore, and failed to stop to see her daughter.

We think it clear that the necessary statutory abandonment has been established.

E argues, however, upon the basis of Cline v. Hartzler,227 A.2d 210, a decision of this Court, that in addition to proof of statutory abandonment it is necessary to prove that she intended to forsake the child entirely when she voluntarily placed the child with B and B.

The trial judge found that when E delivered the child to B and B for the second and final time, she intended to forego parental duties and to relinquish all parental claim to the child. This finding is supported by competent evidence accepted by the trial judge. In doing so, he obviously rejected the testimony of E to the contrary.

We think this finding complies with the requirement of Cline v. Hartzler, and that, accordingly, E must be held to have abandoned her child.

Page 628

Finally, the trial judge held that it clearly was in the best interest of the child that E's parental rights be terminated to clear the way for the adoption of the child by B and B. In so concluding, he relied on the ...


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