Conford, Michels and Pressler. The opinion of the court was delivered by Conford, P.J.A.D.
[154 NJSuper Page 514] This is an appeal by the mother of a child from a judgment granting the complaint of plaintiffs R.A.C. and his wife G.D.C. for adoption of the child and terminating all relationships between the child and her natural parents. The judgment was based upon a finding of
fact by the trial judge, after a thorough hearing, in which the opposing parties were represented by counsel, that the natural mother had forsaken parental duties and relinquished parental claims. The natural father, who was not married to the mother, did not appear in the proceedings and does not appeal.
The child here involved, K., was born February 4, 1976 to appellant A.D., 31 years of age at the time of the hearing. A.D. had been divorced several years previously, with three young children the product of the prior marriage. When A.D. found herself pregnant with this child she asked the natural father whether he would assist in maintaining it. He refused and urged her either to abort it or surrender it for adoption. At the time, A.D. was having difficulty with her divorced husband over support payments due from him for the children and his demand for custody of the children because of her pregnancy. In these circumstances A.D. was convinced she could not afford to keep the child. She became interested in a suggestion by her employment supervisor that a young couple known to him (plaintiffs herein) would be interested in adopting her child. Telephone contact was arranged between A.D. and plaintiffs, and A.D. gradually developed the conviction that it would be in the best interests of the unborn child that it be given up to plaintiffs for adoption. She so assured the plaintiffs well before the birth of the child.
In December 1975, at plaintiffs' request, A.D. conferred with Donald Campbell, plaintiffs' attorney. He took pains to assure her that he could not be an intermediary in the adoption but was only advising the Cs legally, yet he advised A.D. that she could change her mind. Moreover, he acted as plaintiffs' agent in defraying all of A.D.'s medical and hospital expenses in connection with the birth of the child, and he had extended discussions with her as to these and related matters.
On February 7, 1976 A.D. and the newborn child were discharged from the hospital, and A.D. the same day turned
the child over to the wife of her employment supervisor and to the mother of Mrs. C., the prospective adopting parent. The evidence indicates that while A.D. was perturbed about the decision she was making, she was nevertheless satisfied that since she would be unable to take care of the child it was in its best interests to surrender it. Further, by then she felt "committed to the Cs."
Mr. Campbell had A.D. and the natural father come to his office on the evening of March 7, 1976 to sign consents to the adoption by the Cs. It is undisputed that, at A.D.'s insistence, the group all went to the Cs' home that same evening so that A.D. might satisfy herself as to the welfare of the child in the adoptive home, and that A.D. expressed satisfaction with what she observed. There is sharp disagreement, however, as to whether, as A.D. testified, Mr. Campbell insisted on her signing the consent before he would allow her to go to the Cs' home. The latter testified this was untrue, and he said the visit was made prior to the signing of the consents. The trial judge noted this conflict in his written opinion but did not resolve it. There is agreement that A.D. required the deletion from the consent form of a waiver of notice of hearings on the adoption before she would sign it.
On May 24, 1976 Carol Andrews, a case worker with the Division of Youth and Family Services, visited A.D. in her home in the course of her investigation and reported to the court on the adoption. A.D. told her she had been mentally vacillating over whether to repudiate the adoption, but she did not say she had yet changed her mind about it. She appeared to Miss Andrews to have given considerable thought to the problem and to the significance of adoption. It may be noted that A.D. holds an associate in arts degree from a community college and that her testimony demonstrates intelligence and articulateness in expression.
A.D. did not communicate her doubts about the adoption to plaintiffs until early June 1976. Mrs. C. testified that A.D. sent word about that time that she wanted to talk
with the Cs. They met, A.D. said she felt "terrible and guilty" about her altered feelings, but she did not at that time request return of the child. The Cs were first apprised of A.D.'s contest of the adoption ...