Do not mess with Virginia parents! That is the message from a recent Virginia Supreme Court opinion recognizing a parent’s right to sue third parties who intentionally interfere with the parent-child relationship. The claim is officially called “tortious interference with parental rights,” and was found to exist in Wyatt v. McDermott, 2012 Va. LEXIS 92 (2012).
As the Supreme Court wrote, the allegations in the case are “astonishing and profoundly disturbing.” But they explain how this claim works. The unmarried father, John Wyatt, alleged that he and the baby’s mother had agreed to raise the child together. Wyatt alleged, however, that without his knowledge, (1) the mother retained an attorney to arrange for an adoption; (2) that the mother’s attorney worked with the mother to keep Wyatt “in the dark” about the adoption; (3) that they hid the birth from him; and (4) that the baby was ultimately adopted by a Utah couple without Wyatt’s knowledge. Wyatt sued the adoption attorneys in Virginia and Utah, the adoption agency (and an employee), and the adoptive parents . He sought damages for the “unauthorized adoption.”