Law Lessons from Alba Rendon v. Carlos Ale, FD-09-000348-12, MARYBETH ROGERS, J.S.C., Hudson Co., January 28, 2013:
“[T]he contractual surrender of parental rights is not provided for in our statutes as now written.” In re Baby M, 109 N.J. 396, 433 (N.J. 1988). “[In] the Parentage Act, N.J.S.A. 9:17-38 to -59, there is a specific provision invalidating any agreement between an alleged or presumed father and the mother of the child to bar an action brought for the purpose of determining paternity regardless of the contract’s term.” N.J.S.A. 9:17-45(d). In re Baby M, 109 N.J. at 433.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey has noted the specific instances upon which parental rights can be legally terminated under New Jersey Law: (1) when a parent is declared unfit, (2) an adoption has taken place, or (3) if [the Division of Child Protection and Permanency] has removed the child from a parent. Monmouth County Div. of Soc. Serv. for D.M. v. G.D.M., 308 N.J. Super. 83, 90 (Ch. Div. 1997) (citing In re Baby M, 109 N.J. at 426).
The parental rights of a parent can only be terminated by consent when accompanied by the adoption of the child by another. See, e.g., E.E. v. O.M.G.R. 420 N.J. Super 283, 288 where the court held that despite the consent of both parties, their agreement to terminate the parental rights of the father was invalid. In E.E., after the child’s conception, the parties entered into an agreement whereby the father contracted to surrender and terminate all future rights and responsibilities for the child. Id. at 296. The court reasoned that the parties’ intent, evidenced by the agreement, was immaterial because the plain language of the statute was clear. Id. at 292.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey has unequivocally stated that “a child’s relationship with his or her parents is so significant that all doubts are to be resolved against the destruction of that relationship”. Id. at 287-288; see also In Re N., 96 N.J. Super. 415, 425 (App. Div. 1967). Rather, case law demonstrates that the termination of the parental rights is strictly governed by statute. Id. at 288. Therefore the termination of parental rights cannot be accomplished by contract. Id. at 288.
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