Termination of Parental Rights Under New Jersey Law

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Adoption Law Attorney

 In the case of In re Adoption of Children by G.P.B., a stepfather of two children sought to terminate the parental rights of the biological father and to adopt the children. In re Adoption of Children by G.P.B., 161 N.J. 396 at 400 (1999).  Unfortunately, this is an all too common predicament that many stepparents and biological family members find themselves in.

In this case, the biological father suffered from mental illness for the majority of his life.  He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and he was an alcoholic.  Throughout his marriage with the biological mother of the two children, he physically abused her.  He was also involuntarily committed to several psychiatric institutions for substantial periods of time.  Basically, it was safe to say that he was both emotionally and mentally unstable.  He was also away from his children for long periods of time while he was involuntarily institutionalized.

Early in their marriage, the biological father and mother divorced.  The biological mother remarried.  This man was now the stepfather of the two children.  He was substantially involved in the boys’ lives as a father figure.  He coached their soccer team, attended their choir performances, and helped the boys with their school projects.  The court noted that functionally speaking, the stepfather was the boys’ father.

The court emphasized that the issue to decide upon was not whether the children would be better off with the adoptive parent [in this case, the stepfather], but whether the biological parent has failed to fulfill his or her duties.  Ultimately, the court allowed the stepfather to adopt the two children, but did not terminate the parental rights of the biological father.  In a sense, the court came to a compromise of sorts.

In re Adoption of a Child by D.M.H., the court terminated a biological mother’s parental rights. In re Adoption of a Child by D.M.H., 135 N.J. 473 at 490 (1994).  The court’s reasoning was simple: the mother was a complete stranger to her child.  She had abandoned them early on in life and then reemerged almost a decade later seeking to re-affirm her role as mother in their lives.  For almost a decade, she did not fulfill her duties as a mother, and as a result, the court terminated her parental rights at the request of the stepmother and biological father.

To discuss your NJ Adoption Law matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.