INDIANAPOLIS, April 9 (UPI) -- Indiana's highest court reversed a lower court ruling that let a New Jersey man adopt twin girls born in Indianapolis to a surrogate mother.
The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously said a county court shouldn't have granted the adoption without input from New Jersey officials.
But it let adoptive father Stephen Melinger retain custody of Kathy Zee and Karen Zaria Melinger, born in April 2005, until the matter is settled, The Indianapolis Star reported.
The ruling means New Jersey child welfare authorities now must assess whether Melinger, who is in his 60s, can provide a safe and stable home for the girls, the Star said.
Melinger couldn't be reached immediately for comment, the newspaper said.
Questions about Melinger's ability to care for the children arose while the twins were born. Nurses at Indianapolis's Methodist Hospital called child welfare officials after Melinger showed up to visit the prematurely born girls with a live bird in the left sleeve of his suit jacket and, later, bird feces on his clothing, the Star said.
A spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Child Services, which had appealed the case to the Supreme Court, said department attorneys would review the court's decision.
The girls' birth mother, Zaria Nkoya Huffman of Laurel Bay, S.C., was hired by Surrogate Mothers Inc. of Monrovia, Ind., to give birth to the babies for Melinger.
The company's Web site suggests Melinger would have paid at least $37,000 for the surrogacy. Sperm was used from a donor in California, the Star reported.
Melinger filed an adoption petition April 13, 2005. After court hearings and state motions, the adoption was finalized in October 2006.