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MICHAEL P. BRYANT AND PATRICIA BRYANT v. MARY FRANCIS CAMERON

JULY 17, 1985

MICHAEL P. BRYANT AND PATRICIA BRYANT
v.
MARY FRANCIS CAMERON



BEFORE WALKER, P.J., ROBERTSON AND ANDERSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I

As it did of the chancellor below, this case calls for our exercise of solomonic wisdom without regard to whether we possess it, as a child is contested for by her natural mother and would be adopting parents.

 Our law provides a procedure whereby such children may be adopted. Miss. Code Ann. 93-17-1, et seq (Supp. 1984) Persons may employ that procedure with confidence and certainty. We trust that procedure may be found consonant with justice and fairness in this area where there are so many shades of gray. Our problem here is that this procedure for adoption was ignored - indeed our law and its facilities seem to have been wholly irrelevant to the parties until it was too late. Under the circumstances we have no alternative but to affirm the chancellor's determination that custody of the child and the privilege and responsibilities attendant upon her upbringing must vest in the natural mother

 II

 A.

 In July of 1980 Mary Francis Cameron was living in Wiggins, Mississippi, and was divorced, more or less broke, and pregnant. She already had responsibility for a then six year old daughter from her defunct marriage. Cameron was the plaintiff below and is the appellee here.

 At the same time Michael Lee Bryant and Patricia Bryant were experiencing a childless marriage. The Bryants were defendants below and are appellants here. In July of 1980 and through much of the time relevant here their names were Michael Lee Hart and Patricia Hart. The record reflects that their names were changed from Hart to Bryant by proceedings subsequent to the original decree in this case.

 Mary Francis Cameron and the Harts/Bryants learned generally of each other's situation at a time when Cameron was employed as a security guard at the International Paper Plant in Wiggins where Mr. Hart/Bryant was also employed. Cameron approached the Harts/Bryants regarding their childless condition and her pregnancy and out of the nexis of all

 parties' circumstances an agreement was reached - the exact conditions of which, as well as the legal effect of which, are hotly disputed. Cameron contends that the Harts/Bryants agreed to help her out financially and take care of the child until she was back on her feet again. The Harts/Bryants contend Cameron asked them to help her out financially and agreed that they could adopt the baby. Cameron responds by urging that any such adoption agreement is legally unenforceable.

 On April 12, 1981, Cameron gave birth to a female child in Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The Harts/Bryants had taken Cameron to the hospital and by design had registered her as" Mrs. Patricia Hart ". For all intents and purposes, the parties held Cameron out as the wife of Mr. Hart/Bryant. The birth certificate was likewise made out in the name of the Harts with the child's name being recorded as Candice Michelynn Hart.

 The Harts/Bryants state that they paid all hospital and medical expenses incident to prenatal care and child birth. Cameron agrees that the Harts/Bryants paid a substantial portion of the expenses, but she contends that she paid $500.00 on the hospital bill.

 After the birth Cameron and the baby went to the home of the Harts/Bryants in Wiggins and stayed with them for a couple of days. Following this, Cameron moved to her sister's house and went to work for her brother in Lucedale. The child remained with the Harts/Bryants.

 The parties agree that Cameron visited the child thereafter, but differ regarding the extent and frequency of such visits. Cameron states that for the first month she went to visit the child" every day and then after that I'd go in the evenings and on weekends ". Mrs. Hart/Bryant testified that Cameron came back to visit the baby during the first month maybe on a weekly basis, but after that, she quit coming" . Cameron contends that she did not visit more often because the Hart/Bryants had become inaccessible - they did not answer the phone when Cameron called and were not at home on weekends when she came to visit.

 The Harts/Bryants testified that prior to the birth there was an unequivocal agreement between them and Cameron that they could adopt the child. Cameron denies this. Apparently no one thought to contact a lawyer or otherwise employ the facilities of the law to the end that ...


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