Articles Tagged with best interest of the child

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As an attorney who practices family law, I can attest to how painful battles for custody over children are when couples separate.   Even more painful are disputes between adoptive and biological14688d11364778879628f618a4504f40-300x169 parents fighting over custody of a baby.   Among the most famous and newsworthy of such disputes was the New Jersey case of “Baby M”, which was decided ultimately by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in 1988 in In re Baby M,109 N.J. 396 (1988).   In that case, a couple hired a surrogate mother to give birth to their child, after which the surrogate mother claimed that the surrogacy contract was invalid and that her parental rights were improperly terminated, and the child improperly adopted by the biological father’s wife.   The Supreme Court in In re Baby M, invalidated the surrogacy contract and restored the surrogate mother’s biological rights.   This case was splayed out in the news at the time, but was ultimately still a dispute between biological parents.

It is still heartbreaking when there are disputes between biological and adoptive parents over custody of a child.  A recent unpublished decision of the Appellate Division in the case of In re Adoption of a Child by R.C.W. and S.M.W., A-2907-17 (App. Div. Aug. 7, 2018) has recently been in the news in New Jersey, though not with the same attention as the “Baby M” surrogacy case.   In this case, the biological mother of “Baby J” sought to set aside the adoption of her biological child by its adoptive parents.  The Appellate Division addressed the heartache head-on, writing “Few cases have so much potential for calamity.  The adopting parents could lose their only child, the child they have nurtured since birth, and in consequence suffer a lifetime of emotional pain and heartbreak. The birth mother could see her decision to surrender her child upheld, have her parental rights terminated, and in consequences suffer a lifetime of regret and sorrow.  The child could be abruptly removed from the only parents and home it has ever known, placed in the hands of a virtual stranger, and in consequence suffer permanent emotional damage.”  The Court’s statement acknowledges the weight and impact of the decision before it.

In this case, the 19 year old birth mother “Mya” was a full-time college student, with a part-time job, and living with her mother.  She had terminated two prior pregnancies at the request of her mother, and indicated that she was surprised by this pregnancy as she used birth control.  She did not tell her mother other family members about this pregnancy, fearing that she would lose the support of her mother.   Moreover, after she and her mother were evicted from their apartment and she came to live with her sister and her sister’s family, Mya did not feel that she would be financially able to care for the child, and expressed that she needed to finish college.  She told only a new boyfriend and a teacher/mentor about the pregnancy.

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When custody disputes arise, I often consider the Biblical narrative, 1 Kings 3:16-28,  which tells the story of how King Solomon resolved a custody dispute of sorts between two women who lived 296050aba1c021ff4a7e4cab0ed498d2-3-300x200 in the same home.  The women came before King Solomon, each claiming to be the mother of the same baby boy.   King Solomon called for a sword and rendered his judgment:  He would cut the baby in two so that each woman could receive half.  The first woman did not contest Solomon’s decision, arguing that if she could not have the baby, then neither woman could.  The second woman begged King Solomon to give the baby to the other woman instead of killing the baby. King Solomon declared the second woman as the infant’s true mother, reasoning that as a mother she would give up the baby if she had to in order to save his life. Continue reading

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More and more women are choosing to exclusively breastfeed given the reports as to the superior health benefits, not just physically but psychologically, of breast feeding.  Arranging parenting file000956778186-225x300 time between divorced or separated parents of a child who is still breastfeeding poses issues not just with overnight parenting time but daytime parenting time as well. Children who are exclusively breast-fed may reject a bottle.  Nevertheless, there is an argument that the child should be given breast milk from a bottle during parenting time. After all, not only should the child receive the best nutrition, but also facilitating a relationship with the father at the earliest age possible is in the child’s best interest. Continue reading

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file701299029783-300x255In Sacklow v. Betts, a case of first impression,  Hon. Marcia Silva, J.S.C. a Chancery Division judge in Middlesex County, decided that the “best interest of the child” standard applies when a considering whether to allow a transgender child to change his or her legal name.

Janet Sacklow, the child’s mother in this case, petitioned the Chancery Division to change the name of the parties’ 16 year old transgender child from Veronica to Trevor, arguing that this was in the child’s best interest because her child is transgender, identifies as a male, and has been undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria.  Richard Betts, the child’s father, initially opposed the name change, but after cross examining the child, he was willing to consent to changing Veronica’s name to Trevor even though he still nonetheless expressed his concern about whether this name change was in the best interest of the child. Continue reading