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Adoption. Richmond Superior Court. Before Judge Hardin.
BELL, Chief Judge.
1. In matters of adoption the superior court has a very broad discretion which will not be controlled by the appellate courts except in plain cases of abuse.
2. Once jurisdiction over the parties and the cause has attached in a superior court of this State, that jurisdiction will not be defeated by a subsequent removal of the child from that court's territorial jurisdiction.
Appellant, the natural mother, appeals the judgment granting adoption of her minor child born on March 8, 1966. The appellees brought a petition to adopt the child. The petition alleged that the child was in the care and custody of petitioners, having been placed with them by the natural mother, who is the daughter of the petitioners. The petition further alleged that the natural mother and father of the child were divorced and it was of the best interest, health and welfare that petitioners be allowed to adopt the child; the consent of the natural mother and the natural father of the child was attached to the petition. Prior to the date of the final hearing set on the petition, the natural mother filed objections to the adoption, asserting that her consent was not freely and voluntarily given. She stated in her objections that on or about June 4, 1970, she moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, taking her son with her. The adopting parents for twenty years bad been residents of Richmond County, Georgia, and were residents of that county at the time of the filing of their petition for adoption. At the hearing set on the petition for adoption. appellant raised the question of the jurisdiction of the Superior Court of Richmond County over the child. The court decided it had jurisdiction, proceeded with the hearing, granted the prayers of the adoption petition and entered judgment of adoption in favor of the petitioners.
1. Code Ann. 74-403, as amended, requires as a condition precedent to the adoption of a child that the written consent of the living parents first be given. The consent must be given freely and voluntarily, and when so given it cannot be revoked by the parents as a matter of right. Exclusive jurisdiction of adoption proceedings is vested in the superior courts. Hearings on adoption matters are held in the judge's chambers and the judge acts as both judge and jury. Thus in all adoption proceedings the judge exercises a wide discretion which will not be set aside by the appellate courts unless abused. Ritchie v. Dillon, 103 Ga. App. 7 (118 SE2d 115); Hiott v. Duncan, 120 Ga. App. 131 (169 SE2d 691). The evidence adduced at the hearing in this case fully supported the judge's finding that the consent was freely and voluntarily given by the natural mother and should not be set aside.
2. The jurisdiction of the Superior Court of Richmond County over the adoption proceedings is questioned by appellant. The dispute arises by reason of the removal of the child by the natural mother to the State of New Jersey. The record shows without contradiction that this removal took place after the petition for adoption had been filed in the Superior Court of Richmond County. Under our law jurisdiction over the action is in the superior court of the county where the adopting parents reside. It is not disputed that at the time the petition for adoption was filed, the residence of the adopting parents was Richmond County, Georgia. Thus it is obvious that jurisdiction attached in the Richmond Superior Court over the parties and the cause. It is uniformly agreed by the several jurisdictions in the United States that, as between the parties litigant, once jurisdiction has attached in proceedings for the custody of a minor child the subsequent removal of the child from the territorial jurisdiction of the court does not defeat the court's jurisdiction to award custody. See Shorter v. Williams, 74 Ga. 539; Griffin v. Harmon, 35 Ga. App. 40 (132 SE 108); and see Ann. 9 ALR2d 428, 446; 1 ALR2d Later Case Service 876.
This principle covering jurisdiction is analogous and the same whether the action be one for awarding "custody" of the child or one seeking the "adoption" of the child.
Judgment affirmed. Pannell and Deen, JJ., concur.
Thomas R. Burnside, Jr., Fred K. Harvey, Jr., Sanders, Hester, Holley, Ashmore & Boozer, for appellees.
Lester & Lester, James L. Lester, for appellant.
ARGUED APRIL 5, 1971 -- DECIDED JULY 1, 1971.
Friday May 22 16:03 EDT

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