Court Summaries, 0421 WYBJ, Vol. 44 No. 2. 40

AuthorAnna Reeves Olson Park Street Law Offices Casper, Wyoming
PositionVol. 44 2 Pg. 40

Court Summaries

No. Vol. 44 No. 2 Pg. 40

Wyoming Bar Journal

April, 2021

Anna Reeves Olson Park Street Law Offices Casper, Wyoming

In the Matter of the Adoption of MAJB f/k/a ZJC, minor child, DLB and DAB 2020 WY 157 S-20-0120 December 28, 2020

In 2016, DLB and DAB (Petitioners) adopted a minor, MB, from China. The U.S. State Department issued a Hague Adoption Certificate certifying the adoption. After medical testing in the U.S., MB’s pediatrician determined the documented age of the child was incorrect and that MB was two years younger than the age listed on the official paperwork. In 2020, petitioners filed a verified petition for adoption (amended petition). The petition requested the district court enter an order of adoption recognizing MB’s medically-established age and directed the issuance of a Wyoming birth certificate with an accurate date of birth. The district court dismissed the petition, concluding it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The district court also found approval of the adoption was moot because, under federal law, the Hague Convention adoption must be recognized as valid and final.

On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed and noted that subject matter jurisdiction is the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question belong. In construing the subject matter jurisdiction of district courts, there is a presumption that jurisdiction exists and any intent to limit it must be clearly stated. Here, the Court noted that the district court based its dismissal on the premise that Wyoming adoption statutes do not address the district court’s role in approving or separately recognizing foreign adoptions or intercountry adoptions. However, as the legislature has not expressly limited the district court’s jurisdiction in this matter and no other court is charged with jurisdiction over adoption proceedings, the Court held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction.

The Court also held that the district court had the authority to approve the Hague Convention adoption and issue a Wyoming decree of adoption because the relief requested by the parents here is “clearly within the spirit or reason” of Wyoming’s adoption law and were in the best interests of the child wherein the child’s need for permanency were central considerations. Furthermore, there wereno substantive nor public policy reasons to deny the petitioners’ request for relief in this case and the adoption statutes do not preclude the district court from ordering a Wyoming adoption decree recognizing or approving a Hague Convention adoption certificate.

Finally, the Court held that it could not ignore the importance of an accurate age on a birth certificate and was statutorily authorized to issue a decree of adoption allowing MB to obtain a Wyoming birth certificate with an accurate date of birth.

Judith M. Woodward v. Thomas J. Valvoda S-20-0094 2021 WY 5 January 11, 2021

Tomas Valvoda and Judith Woodward were neighbors in Glendo. Valvoda’s home is along the property line and several of his window wells encroach on Woodward’s property. The parties’ relationship was neighborly until August 2018 when Valvoda sent Woodward a letter explaining that her sprinklers were causing damage to his home by spraying water directly onto his windows and walls and asking her to water by hand along the property line. Woodward responded with a letter demanding payment for his use of her property for the window wells. A few months later, Woodward sent Valvoda a “Final Notice of Ejectment,” warning him if he did not remove the window wells, she would hire someone to do so at his expense.

In 2018, Valvoda filed a declaratory judgment complaint requesting a declaration that he was the owner of the window wells by virtue of adverse possession, a decree quieting title in his name, and a preliminary injunction preventing Woodward from removing the window wells. Later on cross-motions for motion for summary judgment, the district court found that it was undisputed that the window wells had existed since 1967 and Valvoda met his burden of showing he and his predecessors possessed them openly, notoriously, exclusively, hostilely, and under a claim of right from 1995 to 2005. Woodward appealed.

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed and noted the presence of five affiants in the record, two of whom were Woodward’s predecessors in interest, who established that the window wells existed as they were presently from at least 1967. The Court also held that during the 10-year statutory period, Valvoda and his predecessors used and possessed the window wells in a manner consistent “with that which would ordinarily be exercised by an owner in using land to the exclusion of others.” Furthermore, the window wells were continuously present for the statutory period; therefore, Valvoda made a prima facie claim for adverse possession of the window wells, and Woodward failed to show a disputed issue of material...

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