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= &n= bsp; &nbs= p; = &n= bsp; ENTRY ORDER
= &n= bsp; &nbs= p; SUPREME COURT DOCKET NO. 2004-435
= &n= bsp; &nbs= p; = = FEBRUARY TERM, 2005
Michael J. Richards &nb= sp;  = ; &= nbsp; &nb= sp; } = APPEALED FROM:
v. = &n= bsp; &nbs= p; = &n= bsp; } = Franklin Family Court
Wendy Raymond &nb= sp;  = ; &= nbsp; &nb= sp; }= p>
} DOCKET NO= . 117-4-03 Frdm
Trial Judge: Thomas J. Devine
= ; &= nbsp; &nb= sp; In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:
In this parentage action, father voluntarily relinquished his parental rights= in the parties’ minor child, E.R. On appeal, father contests the Franklin Family Court’s denial= of his motion for relief from judgment under V.R.C.P. 60(b). We affirm.
In 1997, father was convicted in federal court for sending obscene material through the mail. The convic= tion stemmed from correspondence father had with an individual who purported to= be a single mother of three children. = span>In 2003, father filed the present action for parentage in Franklin Family Court. Mother filed a cross = claim that sought involuntary termination of father’s parental rights. Mother argued that father present= ed a direct threat to E.R. as evidenced by the facts underlying father’s federal conviction. The part= ies engaged in discovery, and a two-day trial was scheduled. Mother planned to call numerous w= itnesses at trial, including father’s probation officer, a federal investigat= or familiar with the federal proceeding, and father’s brother.
On the first day of trial, the parties reached a settlement agreement. The agreement called for father to relinquish his parental rights in E.R.&nb= sp; Father executed an affidavit in support of the agreement. He testified that, after careful consideration, he decided termination of his parental rights in E.R. was i= n the child’s best interests. Father stated that he was not coerced or under duress when he agree= d to the settlement. The parties = reduced their agreement to writing and presented it to the court for approval.
The court accepted the stipulation after addressing father in open court. The court inquired about father= 8217;s state of mind and whether he understood the seriousness and finality of his decision. Father indicated t= hat his decision was voluntary, that he understood its finality, and that terminat= ing his rights in E.R. would serve the child’s best interests.
one week after the judgment issued, father moved for relief pursuant to Ru=
60(b). See V.R.F.P. 4(a)(1)
(stating that the rules of civil procedure apply to divorce proceedings and
parentage action considered a divorce proceeding for purposes of the rule)=
. Father claimed that he mistakenly
entered the stipulation because he was so emotional on the day of trial.
Father argued that he was surpris=
see his brother in court that day, and that his brother “used strong
emotions” to convince father that termination was in the child’=
best interests. The court de=
father’s motion, concluding that it had no merit.
Father appeals to this Court, arguing that the family court abused its discretion= by denying his motion for relief from judgment. Ruling on a motion for relief from judgment is committed to the family court’s discretion, and we will = not disturb the court’s ruling absent a showing of abuse. Richwagen v. Richwagen, 153 Vt. 1, 3-4 (1989). Rule 60(b) provides = relief in extraordinary circumstances only. John A. Russell Corp. v. Bohlig, 170 Vt. 12, 24 (1999). It does not protect a party from ill-advised tactical decisions, Rule v. Tobin, 168 Vt. 166, 174 (19= 98), and it will not provide relief from any other “free, calculated, and deliberate choices” the party has made, Estate of Emilo v.= St. Pierre, 146 Vt. 421, 424 (1985).
The record does not support father’s position that the court abused its discretion by denying his motion. Father’s relinquishment of his parental rights was a free, ca= lculated and deliberate choice. Father stated in his affidavit that he gave the issue careful consideration before deciding that relinquishment was in E.R.’s best interests. In both his sworn affidavit and i= n open court father testified that he understood the nature of his decision, that= the decision was final, and that his agreement was not coerced. Although father now asserts that = his brother prevailed upon him to sign the stipulation, he did not tell the fa= mily court about that pressure when asked him if he had been threatened or coer= ced to agree to the settlement. = Father may now regret his decision to relinquish his rights in E.R., but no legal basis exists to set aside the judgment given the record in this case.
BY THE COURT:
Paul L. Reiber, Chief Justi= ce
John A. Dooley, Associate Justice
Frederic W. Allen, Chief Ju= stice (Ret.),