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SEPTEMBER 09, 1987





Today we are concerned that the labyrinthian course of proceedings below not obscure that this case is about the adoption and support of a now thirteen-year-old female child. The child's mother is now living in Louisiana. The child's admitted natural father defends by attacking a two year old decree under which he adopted his own child. In the end we hold that the Chancery Court quite adeptly traversed the labyrinth before it. We affirm.


 In 1971 Albert M. Mars (a/k/a Joseph Morris Mars a/k/a

 Joe Mars) began dating Judith Ellen Pasentine in Pearl River County, Mississippi. On December 6, 1973, R.M.P.C., a female child, was born to Judith Pasentine in Picayune, Mississippi. Within the community Mars was generally considered to be the father, a fact he does not deny. Mars and Pasentine continued their on again, off again relationship until late 1976 or early 1977.

 On January 3, 1978, Judith Pasentine married Sam Parker Cooper, Jr., an attorney. On April 10, 1978, Sam and Judith filed a petition in the Chancery Court of Pearl River County seeking to adopt R.M.P.C. On April 21, 1978, a decree was entered granting the adoption and changing the child's name.

 On December 4, 1978, Sam Cooper filed a petition, jointly signed by himself and Judith Ellen Cooper, in Adoption Cause No. 594 asking the Chancery Court to have R.M.C. adopted [solely] * by the child's natural mother, Judith Ellen Cooper. The Chancery Court [dismissed] * this petition in an order on December 21, 1978.

 On May 24, 1979, also before the divorce of the Coopers on May 30, the procedure disputed before this Court, Adoption Case No. 611, was commenced in the Chancery Court. The petition for adoption of R.M.P.C. was signed by Albert M. Mars, Judith Ellen Cooper and Sam Parker Cooper, Jr. On May 28, 1979, the Chancery Court entered a decree of adoption, which provides that R.M.P.C. becomes the adopted child of Albert M. Mars and Judith Cooper. What makes this unusual proceeding bizarre is that on May 28, 1979, the date of the adoption decree, Mars and Judith were each married to someone else.

 On August 4, 1980, Judith Cooper signed a petition for support under Louisiana's Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Child Support Act seeking financial assistance in raising R.M.P.C. This petition was filed by the Pearl River County, County Attorney on October 1, 1980, in Cause No. 18,071 and demanded support of and from Mars upon the decree for adoption in Cause No. 611. Mars contends that this was the first time that he had been notified that an" alleged "adoption had taken place on May 28, 1979, in Cause No. 611.

 After Mars was served with the U.R.E.S.A. petition, he filed, on November 14, 1980, an answer, affirmative defenses, and cross bill of complaint in Cause No. 18, 071 in which he protested the adoption alleged in Cause No. 611.

 On September 16, 1981, Sam P. Cooper, Jr. filed a motion to set aside the former decree obtained in Adoption Cause No.

 568, wherein he and Judith Allen Cooper had adopted R.M.P. and had her name legally changed to R.M.C. On March 9, 1982, the guardian ad litem filed a response to Cooper's motion and on July 7, 1983, the Chancery Court [denied] * Cooper's motion to set aside the adoption decree in Number 568. During trial of this matter Cooper admitted that if the alleged adoption of Mars in No. 611 were set aside, then Cooper's adoption of R.M.C. in No. 568 would be in full effect and force.

 After lengthy proceedings the Chancery Court on October 30, 1984, released its memorandum opinion upholding the unorthodox proceeding of Cause No. 611. The Court began:

 The pleadings are voluminous, the positions and counterpositions are numerous and convoluted, some of the assertions by various parties are quite serious and some are almost ludicrous - indeed, the entire matter might be aptly characterized as a" veritable can or worms ". Except for the fact that the whole affair bears potential for great damage to a child, innocent of any wrong, it might be called a" comedy of errors "- but because of the effect upon the child, it occurs to this Court that it is more correctly as a" tragedy of errors ".

 The main thrusts of the action center first around the proceeding in Adoption Cause No. 611 wherein a Final Decree was entered under date of May 28, 1979, which, on its face, effected an adoption of R.M.P.C. to Albert M. Mars, and second around the deposit of slightly more than $100,000.00 by Albert M. Mars in an account in Bankers Trust Savings and Loan styled" Joe M. Mars, Trustee for R.M.P.C. . . . .

 The Court then proceeded to deny Mars' request to set aside the adoption decree in Case No. 611. The Court further held that the questioned bank account belongs to Mars and is not subject to any trust nor was it an inter vivos gift; that Mars must contribute to the support and maintenance of R.M.P.C. at $400.00 per month; that Mars pay Cooper's attorneys fees in the amount of $1,750.00; that Mars pay the sum of $2,000.00 to David M. Smith for his services as guardian ad litem and attorney for the minor; and that all costs of these proceedings be taxed to Mars.

 Importantly, the Court held that Mars was "factually and legally" the father of R.M.P.C. This memorandum opinion was carried into effect by final judgment entered November 16, 1984. Following a plethora of post-trial ...

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