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Chelstrom v. Chelstrom

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

March 14, 2018

KRISTIN CHELSTROM APPELLANT
v.
BRANDY CHELSTROM AND RANDALL CHELSTROM APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 49PR-17-36] HONORABLE JERRY RYAN, JUDGE

          Riggan Law, by: Kimberly Eden, for appellant.

          Baker Schulze Murphy & Patterson, by: J.G. "Gerry" Schulze and Ruthanne N. Murphy, for appellees.

          MIKE MURPHY, Judge.

         Appellant Kristin Chelstrom appeals from an order entered in the Montgomery County Circuit Court granting the adoption of her child, EC, to appellees Brandy and Randall Chelstrom (the Chelstroms). We dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

         Kristin is the adopted daughter of the Chelstroms. On June 9, 2017, the Chelstroms filed a petition to adopt their granddaughter, EC, who was born December 6, 2016. Before filing the adoption petition, Kristin purportedly signed a consent to adoption, which was dated March 26, 2017, but was not acknowledged by a notary public, nor did it contain any language about the amount of time the mother had to withdraw the consent. That same day, Kristin signed a revocation of consent to appointment of guardians (that was in favor of Scott and Mindy Schales); it, too, was not acknowledged by a notary public, but Kristin later conceded that she signed it.[1] After an uncontested hearing for which Kristin was not present and that took place in the court's chambers where no transcript was made, the adoption decree was entered June 20, 2017. In granting the adoption, the decree stated in pertinent part,

1. This Court has jurisdiction of this matter. Petitioners are the maternal grandparents of the child to be adopted, and have guardianship of the child pursuant to a probate matter in this jurisdiction. The child is currently living with the petitioners.
. . . .
3. Based upon Petitioners' testimony, the Court finds it is in the child's best interest for the child to be adopted by Petitioners. The Petitioners have been the child's grandparents and caretakers for the majority of her life.

         Notably, the decree made no mention of the consent that Kristin executed on March 26.

         Upon learning of the adoption of EC via text message from the Chelstroms, Kristin filed a petition to open adoption records, a motion for new trial claiming she did not consent to the adoption, and a notice of appeal and designation of record on June 30, 2017. On July 10, 2017, the Chelstroms responded to the motions. On July 19, 2017, Kristin replied to the Chelstroms' response to motion for new trial and motion to set aside adoption decree. A hearing was conducted that same day on July 19, 2017, during which Kristin testified that she did not sign the consent to adoption but that she did sign the revocation of consent to the appointment-of-guardians form. Both documents were dated March 26, 2017. The Chelstroms testified that they witnessed Kristin willingly sign the consent form. Brandy Chelstrom testified that EC had never spent a night away from their home and that it was Kristin's idea for the Chelstroms to adopt EC. Brandy Chelstrom also stated that she and her husband waited approximately seventy days after Kristin had signed the consent form to give her an opportunity to reconsider.

         Kristin's motion for new trial was deemed denied on July 31, 2017. Despite being one day late, the circuit court filed an order denying the motion for new trial. However, the circuit court lost jurisdiction to consider Kristin's motion because it had been deemed denied by operation of law. The court's order was consequently void and of no effect. See Carruth v. Carruth, 2013 Ark.App. 213, at 3, 427 S.W.3d 117, 119.

         On appeal, Kristin challenges the adoption, arguing that the consent was not properly executed. As a threshold matter, we must address whether we have jurisdiction over this appeal. A timely notice of appeal is a jurisdictional requirement. Jewell v. Moser, 2012 Ark. 267, at 4. Lacking a timely notice of appeal, the court has no jurisdiction to consider other issues raised on appeal. Id. We are required to raise the issue of subject-matter jurisdiction on our own motion. Id.

         Rule 4(b)(1) of the Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure-Civil governs the extension of time for filing a notice of appeal when a motion for new trial has ...


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