Armstrong v. Manzo
380 U.S. 545 (1965)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545 (1965)

Armstrong v. Manzo

No. 149

Argued March 9, 1965

Decided April 27, 1965

380 U.S. 545

Syllabus

Petitioner and his wife were divorced by a Texas court. Custody of their only child was granted to the respondent mother, and petitioner was ordered to pay a monthly sum for the child's support. The mother thereafter married respondent Manzo, who, two years later, sought to become the child's adoptive father. State law requires the natural father's written consent to adoption, an exception existing if he has not substantially contributed to the child's support for two years commensurate with his financial ability. In that case, the written consent of the juvenile court judge in the county of the child's residence may be accepted. The mother filed an affidavit in her county juvenile court alleging petitioner's failure for more than two years to contribute to the child's support, and the judge consented to the adoption. Respondents, the same day, filed an adoption petition alleging that the natural father's consent was not necessary, because he had not contributed to the child's support commensurate with his ability for a period of over two years, and that the juvenile court judge had given his written consent. No notice of the affidavit or adoption petition was given to petitioner, though his whereabouts were well known to respondents. An adoption decree was later entered making Manzo the child's adoptive father, upon being advised of which petitioner filed a motion seeking to have the court annul its decree. A hearing was held at which petitioner introduced evidence that he had not failed to contribute to his child's support, but the court denied petitioner's motion. The appellate court affirmed notwithstanding petitioner's contention of deprivation of due process of law because of entry of the decree without notice, and the state supreme court refused review.

Held:

1. Failure to give petitioner notice of the pending adoption proceedings deprived him of his rights without due process of law. P. 380 U. S. 550.

2. The hearing subsequently granted to petitioner did not remove the constitutional infirmity, since petitioner was forced to assume burdens of proof which, had he been accorded notice of the

Page 380 U. S. 546

adoption proceedings, would have rested upon the moving parties. Pp. 380 U. S. 550-552.

371 S.W.2d 407, reversed and remanded.

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