Brief Fact Summary. Mother attempted to regain custody of her child after surrendering her child to adoptive services.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A mother should be allowed to regain custody of her child provided there is some showing of improvidence in the making of the surrender, that the interest of such child will be promoted and that such parent is fit, competent, and able to duly maintain, support and educate such child.
Issue. May a mother who has surrendered her child to an authorized adoption agency regain the child’s custody?
Held. The surrender of the child was improvident and the child’s best interests would be best served by its return to the natural mother.
Several jurisdictions hold that a parent has an absolute right to regain custody prior to the final adoption decree. Others adhere to the rule that the parent’s surrender is final, absent fraud or duress. The majority of jurisdictions place the parent’s right to regain custody within the discretion of the court.
In New York, a surrender executed by a mother is expressly sanctioned by law. Until there has been an actual adoption the surrender remains under, and subject to, judicial supervision. Documents of surrender are unilateral, not contracts or deeds, and are almost always executed under circumstances which may cast doubt upon their voluntariness or on understanding of the consequences. However, courts have the obligation not to permit surrenders to be undone except for the weightiest reasons.
The court should exercise its power to direct a change of custody from the agency back to the natural parent only when it determines that the interests of such child will be promoted thereby and that such parent is fit, competent and able to duly maintain, support, and educate such child.
The primacy of status accorded the natural parent is not materially altered by the fact of surrender under the statute, although it is a factor to be considered. The agency’s suggestion that the surrender constitutes an abandonment would frustrate the legislative policy, which allows a mother to regain custody of her child provided there is some showing of improvidence in the making of the surrender, that the interest of such child will be promoted and that such parent is fit, competent, and able to duly maintain, support and educate such child.
The agency who would withhold a child from mother must sustain the burden of establishing the parent is unfit and that the child’s welfare compels the awarding its custody to the nonparent. The Court also finds no merit to the contention that failure to allow the prospective adoptive parents to intervene in the proceeding deprived them of due process of law because they do not have legal custody of the child.
The law in this State is clear that a parent has a right to the care and custody of a child, superior to that of all others, unless he or she has abandoned that right or is proved unfit to assume the duties and privileges of parenthood.View Full Point of Law