Family Law Keyed to Weisberg

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Topic /161
In Re Adoption of M

Citation. In re Adoption of M, 317 N.J. Super. 531, 722 A.2d 615, 1998 N.J. Super. LEXIS 529 (Ch.Div. Oct. 15, 1998)

Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner M. was adopted by two parents at the age of fifteen. At the age of twenty-one she bore the child of her adoptive father and petitioned the court to vacate the final judgment of adoption in relation to her adoptive father so that they could marry.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The truly exceptional circumstances necessary to vacate a judgment of adoption were attained when adopted Petitioner wished to marry her adoptive father, with whom she had a child. The best interests of the child and the adoptive parents would be realized by the marriage.

Facts. Petitioner, M., was adopted by two parents at the age of fifteen in 1991. In 1997 the adoptive mother sought and was granted a divorce alleging acts of extreme cruelty. In 1998 Petitioner, then twenty-two years old, gave birth to a son whose natural father was her adoptive father. Conception likely occurred when Petitioner was twenty-one, but prior to the dissolution of his marriage to the adoptive mother. The legal relationship of adoptive father and adoptive daughter precluded their desire to marry. Therefore, Petitioner brought a petition to vacate the final judgment of adoption as pertains to the adoptive father.

Issue. Do these circumstances constitute a showing of truly exceptional circumstances, whereby the final judgment of adoption should be vacated as being in the best interest of the child and the adoptive parents?

Held. Due to exceptional circumstances the final judgment of adoption should be vacated as it pertains to the adoptive father so that the adoptive father and Petitioner may legally marry.
There is no showing on the record of any abuse or other unlawful acts that would suggest that this request is not the Petitioner’s conscious decision.

Marriage would legitimize not only Petitioner’s relationship with her son’s father but the status of her son as well. The marriage would be entitled absent the final judgment of adoption, and vacation of it would shed the adoptive father of his simultaneous status as natural father and legal grandfather. Furthermore, it would legitimize the infant.

Discussion. The Court did not apply the best interest of the child requirement to the Petitioner because the motion was made post-emancipation. It is likely that the balancing test would have been different had the Petitioner still retained her status as a minor.