Florida Record

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Attorney lauds court’s decision to reinstate 2004 adoption

By Richard Jones | Apr 7, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Lawyers for a Florida man and his adopted son have applauded a First District Court of Appeal ruling upholding the 2004 adoption on grounds the man’s biological son did not have the standing to contest the preceding.

“We, of course, believe the court made the correct decision,” Attorney Kyle Egger told the Florida Record. “The only issue before the court was whether or not my client’s biological son had standing to contest the adoption under the law in 2004.”

Florida's First District Court of Appeal recently reversed the prior decision from the Circuit Court for Okaloosa County that had vacated the 2004 adoption of Brindley Kuiper by Egger’s client John Adam Edwards.

In 2014 Edward’s biological son Ryan Maxwell filed suit alleging he had just become aware of the adoption and asked the court to vacate the adoption on grounds of fraud.

According to the opinion, upon approval of the adoption in 2004, Kuiper became eligible to participate in a trust set up by the great grandparents of Edwards.

Maxwell said that as a beneficiary of the same trust he was entitled to notice of any decision that would affect his financial stake in the trust’s remaining assets.

The lower court agreed with Maxwell and issued an order vacating the adoption and stopping all disbursements from the trust to Kuiper.  

But as Egger argued before the court, and told the Record, the law as it stood in 2004 left Mr. Maxwell with no basis to contest the adoption.

“The law did change two years later in 2006,” Eggers told the Record. "But under the legal holding in 2004 he did not have legal expectation of receiving a notification of the adoption nor standing to contest that adoption.”

Judge Timothy Osterhaus agreed, saying the legal holding in 2004 was Rivera-Berrios v. Stefanos, 649 So.2d 881 (Fla. 5th DCA 1994),

According to Osterhaus, Stefanos requires that a party “must show a direct, financial, and immediate interest in an adoption to be entitled to notice, or to have legal standing to vacate an adoption order.”

Osterhaus stated Maxwell failed the test established in Stefanos because his great- great grandparents' trust is administered at the total discretion of its trustees. The trustees determine who is to receive disbursements and when those disbursements will be scheduled.  

Therefore, according to Osterhaus, Maxwell had no direct or immediate, only a “contingent” financial interest in the adoption as the law stood in 2004.

“A person with an indirect interest or contingent interest in an adoption does not have standing to set aside a judgment of adoption, Osterhaus wrote.

While he supports the court's decision, Eggers says the case might not be over.  

“[Maxwell] has alluded to his father of his intention to file something in response,” he said. “So I’m pretty sure he will appeal but I don't foresee anything in the ruling changing.”

Osterhaus authored the opinion with judges Harvey Jay and Allen Winsor concurring. The case was remanded back to the Circuit Court for Okaloosa County for the adoption to be reinstated.

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Florida First District Court of Appeal