This matter arises on a petition filed December 10, 1964 by the Catholic Children's Aid Association of New Jersey, hereinafter referred to as the agency.
The agency alleges fraud by the adopting parents and seeks to vacate the judgment of adoption entered by this court on August 19, 1964 and a return of the minor child (now 27 months old) to the agency.
In view of the nature of the allegations in the petition it is not set forth in full; it is incorporated by reference; it is a part of the adoption proceedings.
Defendant adopting mother, hereinafter referred to as W, filed an answer to the petition denying the allegations and lack of jurisdiction by the court to hear or determine the petition.
The agency contends that it is an arm of the court, and that a fraud committed by the adopting parents on the agency would be a fraud on this court.
Research fails to show a case in New Jersey exactly on point where an adoption decree has been vacated; nor is there a provision in the adoption statutes permitting the application now before the court. While the point was raised in one case in New Jersey, it was not necessary for the court to decide it. The court there indicated that where an adoption is brought about by fraud or misrepresentation, the court has inherent power to control its own judgments. In re L's Adoption, 56 N.J. Super. 46 (Cty. Ct. 1959). R.R. 4:62-2 does not limit the power of a court to set aside a judgment or proceeding for a fraud upon the court.
The rationale of In re L's Adoption, supra, was followed in In re Doe's Adoption, 197 A. 2 d 469, 474 (Del. Orph. Ct. 1964), and in In re Emery, 191 Cal. App. 2 d 428, 12 Cal. Rptr. 685 (D. Ct. App. 1961).
The N.J. adoption laws, N.J.S.A. 9:3-17 et seq., effective January 1, 1954, provide for a recommendation to be made by an agency to the court as to whether or not an adoption should be approved. N.J.S.A. 9:3-23, subd. A(4)(b), 9:3-24, subd. C, 9:3-26, 9:3-27. In granting judgments of adoption our courts rely on the recommendations of an agency. I conclude:
(a) An approved agency is an arm of the court.
(b) Any fraud perpetrated on an agency is a fraud ...