This is an adoption proceeding. A preliminary hearing was held on January 24, 1962. The natural parents appeared pro se at the preliminary hearing and indicated a desire to withdraw their written consents to the adoption and sought the return of the child to them. As a result of this hearing and the findings resulting therefrom, an order was entered which, among other provisions, appointed a next friend, terminated the parental rights and duties of the natural parents, and fixed the date of the final hearing on October 24, 1962. This hearing has been held.
The child concerned, a girl, was born June 22, 1958, and is one of five children, ranging in age from two to seven years, born to the natural parents. The natural parents were married in Germany while the father was stationed in that country in military service. Upon their return to this country, and his discharge from military service, the natural parents took up residence in this State.
As the result of marital conflict and discord, financial difficulties and the father's excessive use of intoxicating liquor, the natural parents in the summer of 1961 began to give some thought and consideration to separating as husband and wife; and the natural mother testified that she, at least, began considering the placing for adoption of some of the children in order to avoid for them the hardships which she felt would ensue from such separation. The court is not satisfied that this was the real reason her thoughts turned
towards adoption, but rather concludes from all of the evidence that it was because of her parental and domestic attitude and deportment during this period that adoption was thought of as a solution to lighten and relieve her of some of the burdens of motherhood and the resulting parental duties and obligations incident thereto. The evidence indicates that family responsibility and routine, insofar as care of the children was concerned, was somewhat distasteful to her. She would often go to a friend's home, leaving the children alone until her husband returned from work, and on at least one occasion for two days absented herself from the home. In any event, through a friend who testified at the preliminary hearing, the natural mother in the summer or fall of 1961 indicated a desire to place two of the children for adoption. The friend then mentioned this desire to the adopting father and another with whom she was acquainted through her employment. Arrangements were made for the surrender of the child here concerned to the adopting father on October 11, 1961. A written consent was signed by the natural parents, and the care and custody of the child was given to the plaintiffs. The adopting father took the child from the natural mother at her residence and to his home. The natural father was also present. The natural parents have not seen or made any attempt to see the child since that date. Another child was surrendered to other adopting parents, and adoption proceedings are pending in another county.
The court is satisfied from the evidence that the consent referred to was executed understandingly, voluntarily and with reflection. The adopting father appeared with the consent prepared and indicated to the natural parents its general purpose, and the natural parents executed the written consent at a nearby bank, in the presence of the adopting father. At the time of the execution of the consent the intention of the natural parents was to separate because of their marital discord and the conditions generally existing in the marriage referred to previously. In view of this expressed intention to separate, the natural parents felt that this was a
proper step to take for the best interests of the child concerned in order to relieve themselves of their parental duties and obligations. The evidence indicates that the natural mother was more of this mind than the natural father.
As a result of the testimony at the preliminary hearing the court found that there was uncleanliness and disorder in the home of the natural parents, and there was mistreatment and neglect of the children born of the marriage. Specifically, the testimony indicates that there was a total lack of daily routine, insofar as the children were concerned, as to meals, sleeping habits, dressing, education and play activities; there was a lack of attention by the natural mother to the normal routine of the children, and the natural mother appears to have had a dislike for household duties generally. There was a lack of guidance and discipline was solely of a physical nature; there did not appear to be the proper family environment present conducive to the happiness and security of the child concerned. There was ample evidence to support the factual findings of the court at the preliminary hearing.
The natural parents since the preliminary hearing have filed a petition under R.R. 4:112-6 seeking to vacate the preliminary order and seeking the return of the child. They allege that at the time of their consent they were confused; that the female friend of the natural mother influenced their judgment; that their parental attitude and marital conditions since such hearing have undergone a change, and that they are now desirous of assuming fully their parental duties and obligations to the child. In other words, as parents they have reformed. The admission of this alleged reformation to some degree supports the findings made at the preliminary hearing.
There is no jurisdictional question involved. Further, the child and the adopting parents meet all of the eligibility requirements of the statute. No question is raised relating to the fitness of the plaintiffs as adopting parents; in fact, the ...