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Gee v. Belair

Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Division II

August 16, 2017

WRANGLER J. GEE, Petitioner/Appellant,
v.
JEFFREY A. BELAIR and APRIL D. BELAIR, Respondents/Appellees.

          Mandate Issued: 09/20/2017

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF NOBLE COUNTY, OKLAHOMA HONORABLE NIKKI G. LEACH, TRIAL JUDGE

          C. Scott Loftis, Ponca City, Oklahoma, for Petitioner/Appellant

          Grace K. Yates, HOLMES AND YATES LAW, PLLC, Ponca City, Oklahoma, for Respondents/Appellees

          KEITH RAPP, JUDGE

         ¶1 The plaintiff, Wrangler J. Gee (Gee), appeals an Order dismissing his action against the defendants, Jeffrey A. Belair and April D. Belair (collectively, Belairs).

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On September 21, 2014, Chloe Rose (Rose) gave birth to R.B. On February 18, 2015, Belairs finalized their adoption of R.B.

         ¶3 On November 30, 2015, Gee filed this action. He sought to establish that he was the biological father of R.B. He alleged that Rose did not inform him that he was the father and that she specifically told him he was not the father. He further alleged that he was not given notice of the adoption and that 10 O.S.2011, § 7505-2.1 was not followed, but the petition did not allege any specifics. [1]

         ¶4 Belairs filed a special appearance and motion to dismiss. In their motion, Belairs relied upon three time limitation periods. First, they alleged that Gee's parental rights were terminated and the time to appeal from the termination order expired. Second, the time to appeal a decree of adoption expired. Last, they rely upon the provisions of 10 O.S.2011, § 7505-7.2. This statute provides:

A. Except as otherwise provided by paragraph 3 of subsection B of Section 7503-2.7 of this title: [2] 1. When an interlocutory or final decree of adoption has been rendered, a decree terminating parental rights cannot be challenged on any ground, either by a direct or a collateral attack, more than three (3) months after its rendition. The minority of the natural parent shall not operate to prevent this time limit from running; and
2. No adoption may be challenged on any ground either by a direct or collateral attack more than three (3) months after the entry of the final adoption decree regardless of whether the decree is void or voidable, and the minority or incompetence of the natural parent shall not operate to prevent this time limit from running.
B. In any challenge on any ground either by a direct or collateral attack, the court shall not enter a decision which is contrary to the best interests of the adopted minor.

         ¶5 The trial court focused upon the three month provision. Gee argued that the time period was tolled and did not commence until he discovered the fraud allegedly perpetrated by Rose. In their response, Belairs argued that the discovery rule did not apply according to the statute and any authority preceding the enactment of the statute no longer constituted authority due to the fact that the statute amended prior statutory law.

         ¶6 The trial court agreed with Belairs and dismissed the action. Gee appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶7 Matters involving legislative intent present questions of law which are examined independently and without deference to the trial court's ruling. Heffron v. District Court of Oklahoma County, 2003 OK 75, ¶ 15, 77 P.3d 1069, 1076. The appellate court has the plenary, independent, and nondeferential authority to reexamine a trial court's legal rulings. Neil Acquisition, L.L.C. v. Wingrod Investment Corp., 1996 OK 125, 932 P.2d 1100 n.1.

         ANALYSIS ...


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