Heard: July 23, 2014.
Appeal From Charleston County. Ronald R. Norton, Family Court Judge.
John S. Nichols, of Bluestein Nichols Thompson & Delgado, LLC, of Columbia; and Shannon Phillips Jones, of Shannon Jones, Attorney at Law, LLC, of Charleston, for Appellant.
James Fletcher Thompson, of James Fletcher Thompson, LLC, of Spartanburg; and Allison Boyd Bullard, of Harling & West, LLC, of Lexington, for Respondent.
Jon A. Mersereau, of Charleston, Guardian Ad Litem.
FEW, C.J., and WILLIAMS and KONDUROS, JJ., concur.
[409 S.C. 471] PER CURIAM:
In this adoption case, we hold the execution of a consent to adopt document must strictly comply with section 63-9-340 of the South Carolin Code [409 S.C. 472] (2010). We affirm the family court's determination that the consent document signed by the birth mother was rendered invalid by (1) the failure of the attorney-witness to be present when the birth mother signed the document and (2) the failure of both witnesses to observe the statutorily-required discussion of the provisions of the consent to adopt document.
I. Validity of the Consent to Adopt Document
" Adoption exists in this state only by virtue of statutory authority which expressly
prescribes the conditions under which an adoption may legally be effected. Since the right of adoption in South Carolina is not a natural right but wholly statutory, it must be strictly construed." Hucks v. Dolan, 288 S.C. 468, 470, 343 S.E.2d 613, 614 (1986) (citation omitted).
Adoptions are carried out pursuant to the South Carolina Adoption Act. S.C. Code Ann. § § 63-9-10 to -2290 (2010 & Supp. 2013). Under the Act, " Consent or relinquishment for the purpose of adoption . . . must be made by a sworn document, signed by the person . . . giving consent or relinquishment . . . ." S.C. Code Ann. § 63-9-330(A) (2010). Section 63-9-330(A) sets forth a list of items that must be specified in the ...