This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).






In the Matter of the Petition of

S.F.P. and D.B.L.P., his wife, to adopt

J.G.E., a minor child.


Filed October 3, 2000


Crippen, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. F09955069



Peter J. Gleekel, Thomas H. Boyd, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., 3200 Minnesota World Trade Center, 30 East Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant E.U.)


Paul C. Thissen, Kathleen S. Adams, Briggs and Morgan, 2400 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant R.E.G.)


Wright S. Walling, Nathalie S. Rabuse, Walling & Berg, P.A., Suite 1550, 121 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402; and


Amy M. Silberberg, 15511 Afton Hills Drive South, Afton, MN 55001 (for respondents S.F.P. and D.B.L.P.)


            Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




            Appellant E.U., the birth mother of J.G.E., and appellant R.G., the child’s putative father, challenge the trial court’s denial of separate motions to intervene in respondents’ proceedings leading to their adoption of the infant child.  R.G. also challenges the court’s denial of his motion to vacate the adoption, asserting that he was entitled to notice under Minn. Stat. § 259.49, subd. 1(b) (Supp. 1999) because he substantially supported the child, and that his consent to the adoption was required for the same reason under Minn. Stat. § 259.24, subd. 1 (1998).  E.U. seeks to intervene to gain access to the records of the adoption proceeding to determine if there is any basis to vacate the adoption.  We affirm.    



E.U. gave birth to J.G.E. on January 15, 1999, when E.U. was 18 years old.  R.G., who also was 18 at the time of the child’s birth, claims to be the biological father.  In April 1999, both appellants signed consent-to-adopt forms at the Childrens Home Society because appellant mother had decided she wanted to place the child for adoption with respondents.  That same day, the child was placed in foster care.  Four days later, R.G. revoked his consent to adopt by filing a written document with the Childrens Home Society.  At the same time, he registered as the child’s putative father with the Minnesota Putative Father’s Adoption Registry, even though registration is required within 30 days of an infant’s birth.  R.G. took no other steps to establish his parentage.  He and E.U. were not married, his name was not listed on the child’s birth certificate, he did not file an intent to retain parental rights or bring a paternity suit, and he did not sign a recognition of parentage form with E.U.

In May, E.U. executed documents in district court that included: (1) consent of parent to adoption and waiver of notice of hearing; (2) affidavit of birth mother in support of preadoptive custody order; and (3) affidavit of birth mother concerning birth father.  In the adoption-consent document, E.U. waived notice of hearings in proceedings for the adoption of the child.  Her affidavit on paternity stated that the person she believed was the biological father of the child “does not object to my plan to place the baby for adoption.”  That same day, the court granted respondents’ motion for a preadoptive custody order, placing the child in respondents’ home, after finding that all required statutory conditions had been met. 

Respondents filed papers to adopt J.G.E. on June 30, and a trial court hearing was held in July.  It is undisputed that neither appellant received notice of the hearing.  The court granted respondents’ petition for adoption, finding that all consents required by law had been properly executed and that all persons entitled to notice had been notified of the proceeding.  The court also found it to be in the best interests of the child to be adopted by respondents.  In addition, the court specifically noted that appellant R.G., as a matter of law, was neither required to consent nor entitled to notice because he failed to timely register with the Putative Fathers’ Adoption Registry.

Appellants each filed trial court motions to intervene; R.G. also filed a motion to vacate.   Following a hearing in early December, the trial court denied all motions by appellants and reaffirmed the adoption as final.  Appellants challenge the denial of their motions.




R.G.’s argument on notice and consent issues is based principally on his claim that he substantially supported J.G.E.  The statutory scheme governing adoptions in Minnesota requires consent of both biological parents with limited enumerated exceptions, including the provision that consent is not required of a parent who is not entitled to notice of the adoption proceedings.  Minn. Stat. § 259.24, subd. 1(a) (1998).  The rules governing notice are set forth in section 259.49, subd. 1, and include the requirement that the parent of a child be notified if  “the person has substantially supported the child.”  Minn. Stat. § 259.49, subd. 1(b)(2) (Supp. 1999).[1] 

The trial court found that appellant failed to produce an adequate showing that he substantially supported the child.  The court noted that none of appellant’s limited evidence of support extended beyond a time when the child was three months old.

Findings of fact are reviewed under a clearly-erroneous standard and will not be reversed on appeal unless the reviewing court is “‘left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.’”  In re Guardianship of Dawson, 502 N.W.2d 65, 68 (Minn. App. 1993) (quoting Gjovik v. Strope, 401 N.W.2d 664, 667 (Minn. 1987)), review denied (Minn. Aug. 16, 1993); see Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (providing standard of review of factual findings made by trial court); see also Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 472, 474-75 (Minn. App. 2000) (discussing standard for reviewing district court’s findings of fact).

Determination of the issue in this case involves an interpretation of statutes.  Statutory construction is a question of law that is reviewed by this court de novo.  In re Paternity of J.A.V., 547 N.W.2d 374, 376 (Minn. 1996); Sorenson v. St. Paul Ramsey Medical Ctr., 457 N.W.2d 188, 190 (Minn. 1990).  It is a fundamental rule of statutory interpretation that a reviewing court “look first to the specific statutory language and be guided by its natural and most obvious meaning.”  Heaslip v. Freeman, 511 N.W.2d 21, 22 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Feb. 24, 1994).

The record supports the trial court’s determination that R.G. failed to make an adequate showing of substantial support.  The record contains only minimal evidence that this appellant provided financial support for the child.  He claims that he purchased some baby items and gifts for the child, endorsed several paychecks to E.U., and gave her cash from other paychecks to use for the child.  But he provided no documentary evidence to support his claims of delivering money or gifts. 

On appeal, R.G. attempts to submit copies of payroll checks made out to him that purportedly show endorsement to appellant mother.  We note in passing that these checks, some of which are illegible, appear to be dated prior to J.G.E.’s birth.  Of greater import, our review is limited to the record before the trial court.  Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.01 (limiting appellate record to papers, exhibits, and transcript of trial court); Fabio v. Bellomo, 489 N.W.2d 241, 246 (Minn. App. 1992) (holding that the reviewing court will strike documents included in party’s brief that are not part of appellate record),[2] aff’d, 504 N.W.2d 758 (Minn. 1993).

Appellant urges the court to consider the emotional support he claims to have provided J.G.E. and E.U. But he cites no authority to support an argument that it was the intent of the legislature to provide that the court consider emotional as well as financial support.  We find no evidence, in fact, that the legislature has ever used the term “support” as it relates to children, either in divorce codes or child-welfare laws, to mean something other than financial support. 

Insofar as appellant R.G. suggests he has been deprived of his rights, including constitutionally-guaranteed rights, he has failed to show an inability to contribute to the support of the child.  It is his burden, for purposes of applying the statute or the constitution, to demonstrate cause for vacation.

R.G. claims no other right to notice under Minn. Stat. § 259.49 (1998 & Supp. 1999).  Because the trial court’s finding that R.G. did not substantially support J.G.E. is not clearly erroneous, we conclude that the court did not err in determining that neither notice nor consent was required respecting his claim of parentage.  We can locate no authority permitting us to deviate, as appellant urges us, from the statutory rubrics on notice and consent.


            Appellant R.G. also claims that the adoption should be vacated because the preadoptive custody order placing J.G.E. in respondents’ home was defective.  Appellant asserts that the court erred in failing to require an affidavit from him as required by Minn. Stat. § 259.47, subd. 3(a)(2) (1998), or, alternatively, that the court erred by accepting an affidavit from appellant mother, pursuant to section 259.47, subd. 3(b) (1998), that deceptively stated that the birth father consented to the placement.

            Appellant has not identified a rationale to suggest how a procedural defect in the preadoptive custody order should enlarge his rights in his motion to vacate.  His right to notice and consent in the adoption proceedings are governed by Minn. Stat. §§ 259.24 and 259.49 (1998), not by section 259.47, subd. 3(a) (1998), which governs the placement of a child in a prospective adoptive home subject to court approval.  C.f. Midway Ctr. Assocs. v. Midway Ctr., Inc., 306 Minn. 352, 356, 237 N.W.2d 76, 78 (1978) (stating that appellant must show both error and prejudice to obtain reversal).


Both appellants seek to intervene in the adoption proceeding as a matter of right pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 24.01. 

            To intervene as a matter of right under Rule 24.01, a party must show: (1) the motion to intervene was timely; (2) an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action; (3) as a practical matter, disposition of the action may impair or impede the party’s ability to protect that interest; and (4) the party is not adequately represented by the existing parties.  Luthen v. Luthen, 596 N.W.2d 278, 280-81 (Minn. App. 1999) (citing Gruman v. Hendrickson, 416 N.W.2d 497, 500 (Minn. App. 1987)).

            This court reviews orders addressing intervention of right independently.  Id. at 280.  The rule is “designed to protect nonparties from having their interests adversely affected by litigation conducted without their participation.”  Gruman, 416 N.W.2d at 500.

            The trial court did not err in determining that neither appellant could intervene as a matter of right.  As the court correctly determined, appellant putative father failed to establish any legal right to an interest in the proceeding, and appellant mother had no interest in the adoption proceeding because she did not withdraw her consent to the adoption within the time period provided for revocation.

A parent may withdraw consent for adoption for any reason within ten working days after the consent is executed.  Minn. Stat. §  259.24, subd. 6a (1998).  On the day following the tenth working day after execution, the consent “shall become irrevocable, except upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction after written findings that consent was obtained by fraud.”  Id

            After a decree of adoption is entered, the natural parents are relieved of all parental responsibilities for the child and shall not exercise or have any rights over the child.  Minn. Stat. §  259.59, subd. 1 (1998); In re A.M.P., 507 N.W.2d 616, 619 (Minn. App. 1993).

            There is nothing in the statute to suggest that E.U. is entitled to any voice in the adoption proceeding after she failed to revoke her consent to adoption, effectively terminating her interest in the proceeding.


            Alternatively, E.U. argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her permissive intervention in the adoption proceeding under Minn. R. Civ. P. 24.02.  She seeks to become a party in order to conduct non-specific discovery of the record and documents associated with the adoption to determine if any fraud existed.  Under  Minn. Stat. § 259.24, subd. 6a, a court could permit appellant mother to revoke her consent beyond the proscribed period upon a finding of fraud.

This court reviews decisions about permissive intervention under an abuse-of-discretion standard.  BE & K Constr. Co. v. Peterson, 464 N.W.2d 756, 759 (Minn. App. 1991).

            The trial court did not abuse its discretion in failing to permit E.U. to conduct an investigation of possible fraud.  Appellant has not shown any fraud, any reason to anticipate some fraudulent act might have occurred without her knowledge, or any cause to enlarge the legal rights of a consenting mother that would permit her to conduct discovery and otherwise scrutinize every aspect of the adoption proceeding.  The statute governing withdrawal of consent states that a declaration of consent is “irrevocable” in the absence of a finding of fraud.  Minn. Stat. § 259.24, subd. 6a; see also In re Anderson, 565 N.W.2d 461, 464 (Minn. App. 1997) (finding fraud the only statutory exception to irrevocable consent). 


Respondents filed a motion with this court for attorney fees and costs but failed to specify the statutory basis for the motion.  Because the basis for an award of fees has not been cited, and because there is no showing that the appeals were frivolous, we deny respondents’ motion for attorney fees and costs.  See County of Blue Earth v. Turtle, 593 N.W.2d 258, 263 (Minn. App. 1999) (requiring citation of authority), review denied (Minn. June 29, 1999); Emerick ex rel. Howley v. Sanchez, 547 N.W.2d 109, 113 (Minn. App. 1996) (same).



* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1]  The parties agree that section 259.49 states the exclusive standards by which the parties could demonstrate that the putative father is not eligible to receive notice.  Neither party attributes special legal significance to the form of subdivision 1(b) of the section, enumerating the circumstances in which a “parent” is entitled to notice.  That is, neither party contends, independent of the qualifying conditions stated in the subsection, that a prospective recipient of notice must demonstrate status as a “parent.”  If stated eligibility for notice were considered dependent on some separate demonstration that a person qualified as a “parent,” this potential justification of non-notice would wrongfully nullify the significance of the other stated entitlements for notice that are set forth in section 259.49.  See Minn. Stat. § 645.17(2) (1998) (noting presumption that legislature intends entire statute to be effective and certain).

[2] Consistently, acting on respondent’s relevant motion, we strike evidence disclosed in R.G.’s brief but not brought before the trial court.