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Watson v. Dockett

Decided: June 8, 1962.

WATSON ET UX.
v.
DOCKETT ET UX.



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Prince George's County; Gray, C. J.

Brune, C. J., and Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Marbury, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Marbury

This is an appeal from a decree of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, awarding the appellees, James L. Dockett and Henrietta Dockett, his wife, the adoption of an infant child, Iola Denise Moore, hereinafter referred to as Denise, over the objection of the child's mother, Mildred M. Watson, one of the appellants.

Denise was born October 13, 1958, out of wedlock, in a Philadelphia hospital, to Mildred M. Watson, who was then known as Mildred Moore, before her marriage to the appellant, Charles M. Watson. She was a premature child and remained in the hospital until the latter part of January, 1959, when her mother brought her to the latter's home in Brandywine, Prince George's County, Maryland.

Mildred had, prior to the birth of Denise, become the mother of another female child, born out of wedlock, known as Thyssen Odessa Moore, who is approximately a year older than Denise. Mildred has made her home with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Moore, at Brandywine, and it was to this home that the infant was taken from the Philadelphia hospital.

In August 1959 Denise, according to Mildred, was given to Henrietta Jackson (prior to her marriage to James L. Dockett) for a short visit, and at the request of Henrietta, who had been Mildred's schoolmate and friend for a number of years. According to Henrietta the infant was given to her for care and keeping under a more or less permanent arrangement. At this time Henrietta was living with her sister, Irene Porter, not far from the Moore home in the Brandywine

area. Mildred visited the infant or saw her from time to time, although the frequency of such occasions was in controversy.

On November 19, 1960, the appellees, Henrietta and James L. Dockett, were married. They moved into a new frame house consisting of three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, dinette, full basement and bath, which he had constructed prior to the marriage in the Brandywine area; and Henrietta took the infant with her to the new dwelling, which was designed to provide a room for the child. A friend, Beatrice Brown, with her two children, moved into the Dockett household under a more or less temporary arrangement. There was dispute as to the frequency with which Mildred saw her child after she went to the new Dockett home, but it is not controverted that she did see the child and discuss her future with the Docketts.

On September 25, 1960, Mildred married the appellant Charles M. Watson. They made their home with Mr. and Mrs. Peter Moore, her parents, near Brandywine, from the time of the marriage until at least the time of the court hearing of the case in August 1961. At that time they were planning to construct a house on some land given them about a city block from the Moore home. This dwelling was to be modern and adequate. The appellants have had a male child, Orlando, born March 25, 1961, which, with Mildred's oldest daughter Thyssen, and Denise since June 23, 1961, constitute their family household. Mildred does not work but cares for her children. Charles works as a farmer with his father-in-law, Peter Moore, and on weekends as a manager of a tavern or restaurant, known as the Moonlite Inn, in Charles County. He has an income of approximately $7,000 a year. Mildred is twenty-one years old, and her husband, Charles, is thirty-four.

James L. Dockett is thirty years of age, is employed in the Oxon Hill post office and earns approximately $6,000. Henrietta, twenty-three years of age, works as a domestic and earns approximately $35.00 per week. During the absence of the Docketts from home while at work, arrangements had been made for Henrietta's sister, Irene Porter, to care for the child.

On June 23, 1961, Mildred, with a Prince ...


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