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Court Holds that Sibling Visitation not Required of Adoptive Parents


by in Civil Appeals

DYFS v. N.J. and D.R./Matter of D.J., N.D.R., and N.J., ? N.J. Super ?, 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS ? (March 30, 2010) – “In this parental termination case, the Law Guardian for three children appeals from the Family Part’s denial of her request to compel the prospective adoptive parents to continue visitation among the siblings as a function both of the court’s parens patriae power and the children’s constitutional right to associate with their siblings post-adoption. We affirm….

[T]he interests at stake here are not the rights of the natural parents whose rights have already been terminated, but rather the rights of the adoptive parents, who step into the shoes of the natural parents…. It is the adoptive parents’ rights that may be infringed in the future, and therefore, it is their rights as parents that must be considered…. [C]oncerns over loss of parental autonomy and disruption to the new adoptive family, as well as their consequent chilling effect on adoptions, are … implicated in sibling visitation post-adoption.

The Law Guardian offers no compelling reason why the Legislature’s rejection of open adoptions is not as pertinent to the issue of sibling visitation as it is to grandparent visitation or why the same chilling effect on the State’s effort to recruit adoptive parents … would not be extant were sibling visitation forced upon non-relative adoptive parents. It seems to us that the heavy toll on New Jersey’s “strong public policy in favor of permanency” for children in the foster care system, [citation omitted], would be the same…. [T]he Family Part was … correct in withholding any residual power to compel sibling visitation because of the absence in this record of clear and convincing evidence of ‘exceptional circumstances.’” (Randi Mandelbaum, Designated Counsel, Law Guardian)






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