Adoption of Christopher L., Matter of

Decision Date04 May 1982
Citation450 N.Y.S.2d 269,113 Misc.2d 904
PartiesIn the Matter of the ADOPTION OF CHRISTOPHER L., an Infant. Surrogate's Court, Bronx County
CourtNew York Surrogate Court

Ebenstein, Ziegler & Robinson by Benjamin Robinson, New York City, for petitioners.

Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr., Corp. Counsel by Joseph M. Armstrong and Margaret R. Gumm, New York City, for James A. Krauskopf, Com'r of Social Services of the City of New York.

BERTRAM R. GELFAND, Surrogate.

In this agency adoption proceeding, there is presented a preliminary question as to the necessity for the consent of the putative father of the infant to the granting of the application. Petitioners seek a determination that the putative father is not a necessary party to the proceeding as a result of his failure to satisfy the criteria set forth in Domestic Relations Law section 111(1)(d), or in the alternative, on the ground of abandonment Petitioners further contend that he is not a person entitled to "notice" pursuant to the provisions of Domestic Relations Law section 111-a [see Matter of Jessica X.X., 77 A.D.2d 381, 484 N.Y.S.2d 772, affd. 54 N.Y.2d 417, 446 N.Y.S.2d 20, 430 N.E.2d 896; Matter of Carmen Lydia S., 106 Misc.2d 770, 435 N.Y.S.2d 645; Matter of Sally Janet R., N.Y.L.J., February 9, 1981, p. 13, col. 6; see also Matter of Marilyn H., 106 Misc.2d 972, 978, 436 N.Y.S.2d 814].

The infant was born on December 5, 1979 in Queens County. The certificate of birth does not state the name of the child's father. The natural mother surrendered the custody and guardianship of the infant to the Commissioner of Social Services of the City of New York on August 22, 1980.

The agency's records indicate that at the time the natural mother executed her surrender, she also executed an affidavit in which she stated that she refused to reveal the identity of the putative father. The agency's records indicate that the putative father never lived with the natural mother of the infant, nor did he ever visit or communicate with the child or the agency. Moreover, the putative father has never contributed to the maintenance and support of the infant, nor has he ever sent any cards, presents, or anything else of value to the child. The agency's records also indicate that no person has ever come forward holding himself out as the father of the child nor has anyone ever contacted it claiming, or even suggesting the possession of such status. No one has ever been adjudicated the father of this child, nor has anyone ever registered as such with the Putative Father Registry.

The time has come to address the problem in adoptions of the putative father who is known to the surrendering natural mother but whose identity she refuses to disclose. The adamant refusal of the mother of a non-marital child to disclose the identity of the child's father, even when it is known to her, is far from an unusual phenomenon. Even in the light of the escalated status of putative fathers as a result of Caban v. Mohammed, 441 U.S. 380, 99 S.Ct. 1760, 60 L.Ed.2d 297 and the legislation flowing therefrom, this circumstance does not present an insurmountable obstacle to the conclusion of an adoption. The quandary presented by the refusal of a mother placing a non-marital child for adoption to disclose the identity of the child's father must be viewed with a sensitivity to the fact that there is no feasible judicial process by which a mother surrendering her child for adoption can be compelled to disclose such information. To bring such a person before the court and direct them to disclose the information they may have as to the identity of the father under the threat of punishment for contempt is of doubtful legal validity and is even less logical. The ultimate impact of embarking on such an ill advised course, among its other unfortunate ramifications, would be to create a chilling effect on mothers' placing children for adoption through legitimate channels.

To refuse to process the adoption within the framework of the statutes based upon such information as to the natural father, or lack of it, as is available, is imposing a penalty not on the mother who chooses not to reveal the information, but rather upon the innocent and defenseless child. Viewing the problem in the light most favorable to the unknown putative father, his relationship and interest in this child must be judged by his absence of affirmative action in the two and one-half years that have elapsed since the infant's birth to disclose his identity as the father, and involve himself in the child's welfare without regard to the fact that if his identity were known affirmative action to stimulate this course would be appropriate.

The administration of justice involves a delicate balancing of conflicting...

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3 cases
  • Adoption/Guardianship No. 3598, In re
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1996
    ...father lacked standing to oppose adoption because he made no contribution to expenses); see also Matter of the Adoption of Christopher L., 113 Misc.2d 904, 450 N.Y.S.2d 269 (1982)(although mother refused to reveal the identity of natural father to state agency, his consent to adoption was n......
  • Robert O. v. Russell K.
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • October 27, 1992
    ...(see, Matter of Jessica XX., 54 N.Y.2d 417, 433, n. 2, 446 N.Y.S.2d 20, 430 N.E.2d 896 [Cooke, Ch.J., dissenting]; Matter of Christopher L., 113 Misc.2d 904, 450 N.Y.S.2d 269; see also, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. --- -, ---- - ----, 112 S.Ct. 2791, 2830-2831, ......
  • Robert O. v. Russell K.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • January 13, 1992
    ...to [the father]" (Matter of Jessica XX., supra, 54 N.Y.2d at 427, 446 N.Y.S.2d 20, 430 N.E.2d 896; see also, Matter of Christopher L., 113 Misc.2d 904, 450 N.Y.S.2d 269). Thus, the evidence establishes that no fraudulent concealment ORDERED that the order is affirmed, with one bill of costs......
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