KRISTAL L. THOMPSON APPELLANT
LUKE B. BRUNCK AND AMBER M. BRUNCK APPELLEES
FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72PR-17-191]
HONORABLE DOUG MARTIN, JUDGE
Law Firm, PLLC, by: Mark C. Lucas, Jr., for appellant.
Law, PLLC, by: Justin Heimer, for appellees.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge.
appeal asks whether an adoption can stand. The circuit court
allowed Luke and Amber Brunck to adopt Kristal Thompson's
child, N.R.D. Kristal challenges that decision, arguing that
she proved that her signature on the "Relinquishment of
Parent and Child Relationship and Consent to Guardianship and
Adoption"-which was attached to the Bruncks'
petition to adopt N.R.D.-was procured by fraud
(misrepresentation). Because the evidence proves that
Thompson did not voluntarily sign a relinquishment affidavit,
the circuit court clearly erred in failing to set the
papers of record, and testimony taken during an April 2017
hearing on Kristal's petition to set the adoption aside
reveal the following. Kristal gave birth to her daughter,
N.R.D., while living in Houston, Texas. More than one year
later, Kristal contacted Amber Biggerstaff, who lived in
northwest Arkansas; the two had known each other since
Kristal was three. According to Kristal, Amber offered to
help her get on her feet, so Kristal and one-year-old N.R.D.
lived with Biggerstaff for a week or two while Kristal looked
for work. Kristal said that Amber was "very
helpful" whenever she needed to work at night and that
Amber "loved [N.R.D.] and she loved me." Kristal
said she left for Jacksonville, Arkansas on 27 January 2017
to "get myself together, get financially stable, and
then go back and get her [daughter]." The plan,
according to Kristal, was for N.R.D. to stay with Amber
the hearing Kristal also testified that she signed an
affidavit on 27 January 2017, which Amber had asked her to
sign. Kristal said she thought the subject was to create a
temporary guardianship with the purpose of authorizing Amber
to take N.R.D. "to the doctor or daycare, put her on
health insurance, take care of her better." She believed
the guardianship was to last for six months. Kristal said
that Amber was present when she signed the document-which she
thought was a guardianship paper, not an adoption-related
paper-but did not receive a copy. Kristal maintained that no
one watched her sign the affidavit; and no one placed a
notary seal on the affidavit in her presence. According to
Kristal, the affidavit she signed already had a notary stamp
on it, and "Jessica Martin" was the name that
appeared as the notary on the same page that Kristal had
signed. In other words, the document Kristal signed on
January 27 was notarized by Jessica Martin before Kristal
signed it. Kristal told the court that the document she
signed on January 27 was not the "Relinquishment of
Parent and Child Relationship and Consent to Guardianship and
Adoption" that ended up being attached to the
Bruncks' petition to adopt N.R.D.
segues to a point that consumes a lot of words in the
parties' briefs, which is that a copy of the
relinquishment affidavit was notarized by two people: Jessica
Martin and Amber Biggerstaff. It appears that Amber's
notarization was an attempt to save the premature Martin
notarization, which everyone agrees occurred outside of
Kristal's presence. Kristal, however, said that the
affidavit that has Amber's notarization attached to it
was not the same paper (content wise) that she signed on
January 27. Kristal explained that Amber "probably had
me sign the other document and then scanned my signature onto
this one [the relinquishment of consent]." Kristal also
said that she did not see a ten-day deadline to revoke the
relinquishment of her right to consent to an adoption in the
document that she signed, and that she would have not signed
it if she thought it could terminate her parental rights.
Again, she thought the document gave Amber a "partial
guardianship for a specific amount of time." Kristal
acknowledged that she and Amber had talked about adoption,
but adoption was not at issue when the affidavit was filed,
according to Kristal.
the April 2017 hearing Kristal also informed the court that
she had texted Amber about the possibility of Amber and her
husband adopting N.R.D. so the child's biological father
could not try to take her away from Kristal. Apparently
N.R.D.'s father was threatening "to take her to
court" to get custody. Kristal agreed in a 9 February
2017 text message that Amber could adopt N.R.D. The court
accepted as evidence, without any objection, long text
exchanges between Kristal and Amber. Here is one that started
on Thursday, February 9, at 12:44 p.m.:
Kristal: Hey, [N.R.D.'s] dad just text me today asking
about her and I'm done fighting with him about her so I
think he's gonna try to fight me for her.
Amber: What would u like me to do? He has no rights first
off. I have the guardianship paperwork but only way he
wouldn't be able to have a chance at her is if I file it
with the court clerk for adoption. We both know u are going
to get her back but he doesn't have to know anything. If
I file to adopt her he could never get her ever again. When u
would want her back when u get settled i would just put her
in ur guardianship. Basically same as we have it now but in
the legal world she would be legally attached to junior
[Biggerstaff's husband] and I. This would be the only way
we could stop him legally. Once u would say okay I'd file
it and he would be stopped. His rights would be stripped. If
u didn't do it this way he will always be able to go file
and to have visitation or file to get permanent custody due
to saying you have no way to care for her. You don't want
that babe. We do this all the time for like younger girls
that have a baby will sign the baby over to baby moms parents
so the father of the baby could never have a chance to take
the child away from the young mom due to her not having her
own house or anything.
Kristal: Yeah go ahead and file it. .
. . .
Amber: Jokes on him cause he done f****d with the wrong
person!! Lol this is what I do for a living. I can also send
him a copy of the adoption order so he knows from a legal
office and judge. If he asks what the hell u did that for
just say it was best for [N.R.D.] and u wanted too. Boom done
and over for the rest of her life. . . . .
Kristal: Okay cool. Does [N.R.D.'s] last name have to be
Amber: A judge wouldn't look at u bad for wanting her to
be adopted by us at all either they would think better of u
for putting her first. The judge and I go to lunch all the
time so I'll have him do it quickly and send kourtni and
him the papers asap No it doesn't have to be changed at
all. Legally she would be listed as Biggerstaff but I
don't have to change her name on social security cards or
birth certificate ever if U don't want us too.
[child's name] and [child's name] are
Biggerstaff's legally but social and birth certificates
are still their old names.
Kristal: Okay cool that works. Thank you so much momma bear.
Amber: No problem babe. I will always have ur back and
[N.D.R.'s] too. Just send them a text saying "Listen
I knew I was struggling and needed to get myself together so
I made the decision to have Aunt Amber adopt [N.D.R.] before
I left Fayetteville. It was the best thing for [N.D.R.] If
you need or want details u c any info." An call her at
[Amber's cell phone #] but legally she's been adopted
and it's been a done deal for over 3 weeks now. U will
have to take it up with Amber if u need
Kristal: Okay I will
Amber: Getting settled at ur dads house Make them think u did
it before u left legally and u didn't want to tell them
she was adopted already because u didn't want to upset
anyone while u were I have hi address still so I will send
him papers. [c]hild's parents automatically is considered
abandonment in the court of law. Since he hasn't seen her
in a year the rights he could of had were voided and Also, if
he asks how u were able to sign her to be adopted without him
being notified tell him after a year of no visits or contact
from either one of a c legally he abandoned his rights to her
next day, February 10, more texts were exchanged:
Kristal: I changed my mind about doing the adoption, but
I'm not gonna tell [N.D.R.]'s dad any different
Amber: Kristal I filed it already yesterday afternoon.
It's nothing different than what we already are doing.
Kristal: Aww well dang. Okay.
Amber: We can keep it between us and no one else if u are
worried about that. My lips are sealed. Nothing has changed.
She is still your little baby and will always be. Everything
is the same as it was yesterday morning. We just did it to
keep anyone from taking her from you while u are getting ur
stuff together. That's it. No one not dhs not her dad not
anyone can take her from u for the rest of her life. No worry
on ur part.
Kristal: Okay that works
Amber: I'm sorry love. I didn't know any different.
At least this way u have no worries with her or will u ever
have to in the future. Love you. Don't worry about it.
Nothing has changed. I will never tell a sole because no one
needs to know nor will they ever know because nothing will
change. Did something happen that made u change ur mind?
Something worry u?
Kristal: I'm worried that I won't have the title of
her mother legally.
Amber: Baby it doesn't work like ...