Armstrong v. Manzo
In Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545 (1965), the biological parents divorced, and the father paid $ 50 per month in child support. The mother remarried, and her new husband brought an adoption proceeding to terminate the father's parental rights and adopt the child.
Texas law contained a statutory provision similar in its operation to South Carolina's section 20-7-1690. Under the Texas statute, if the parent had abandoned the child for a period of two years, or had not provided support for the child for a two-year period commensurate with the parent's financial ability, then written consent of that parent to the adoption of the child was unnecessary, and adoption could be granted based upon the written consent of the judge of the juvenile court in the county in which the child resided. Id. at 546-47.
The mother filed an affidavit with the juvenile court to this effect, and the court issued its consent, as a result of which the adoption was granted without notice to the father. The father filed a motion to set aside the adoption on the grounds that the affidavit of the mother was false and that he had provided adequate support. The court granted a hearing on the father's motion, and after hearing the testimony, denied the motion.
The Texas appellate court recognized that due process required notice to the father and an opportunity to be heard, but denied relief, finding that the juvenile court's hearing on the motion satisfied this requirement. The Texas Supreme Court denied an application for a writ of error.
The United States Supreme Court ruled that due process under the Constitution required adequate notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard, both of which had been denied to the father. The Court pointed out that the post-adoption hearing was not sufficient to satisfy the second prong because the burden of proof had been shifted to the father to prove that his parental rights were entitled to due process protection.
According to Armstrong, it is not permissible to require the biological parent whose parental rights are in jeopardy to prove entitlement to meaningful notice in accordance with the Due Process Clause before the right attaches.