In an astonishing opinion released on April 18, 2013, In the Matter of AJR, Docket No. 312100, [For Publication], Michigan’s Court of Appeals held that the trial court improperly granted a step-parent adoption under the adoption statute, MCL 710.51(6), where the parent objected to termination of his parental rights and had joint legal custody under a judgment of divorce. What made the opinion so stunning was the Court of Appeals’ statutory interpretation of MCL 710.51(6). What a difference a word makes . . .
The COA held that because the child’s biological father shared joint legal custody with the mother, his parental rights could not be terminated pursuant to MCL 710.51(6) to make way for a step-parent adoption without his consent.
I have just never thought about MCL 710.51(6) in this way—I’ve never parsed it out in this manner. Even Respondent Father’s trial attorney did not raise this objection in the trial court. When the issue was raised on appeal, rather than refusing to consider the unpreserved issue for appeal, the COA said this: