[170 NJSuper Page 420] The unique facts of this case raise the question whether this court may grant a judgment of adoption to plaintiff stepfather and incorporate within said judgment an order for visitation
privileges between the natural father (who consents to the adoption) and his two daughters whose adoption is sought by plaintiff. The question posed is of first impression requiring an interpretation of our recently enacted revised laws of adoption. L. 1977, c. 367; N.J.S.A. 9:3-37 et seq.
The case at bar involves a complaint for adoption of plaintiff's two stepdaughters, ages 11 and 9. The children's natural father, D., has filed an answer setting forth a conditional consent to plaintiff's request for adoption. The nature of this condition, simply stated, is that this court permit the adoption but preserve, by judicial decree, unto his daughters, an independent enforceable right, at their sole and exclusive option, to visit their natural father.
The factual history of the relationship of the parties serves as a basis for the relief sought.
D. and his former wife, L. (now Mrs. F.), originally resided in Alaska. Subsequent to their separation D. instituted divorce proceedings, and during the pendency of that action, and without prior notice, L. and the two children of the marriage left Alaska and established a residence at an undisclosed location in New Jersey.
In 1973 the Alaska court granted a judgment of divorce, imposed a support obligation upon D. and granted him general visitation privileges with his children. Shortly thereafter D. established a new residence in Minnesota.
In May 1973 L. instituted an action in New Jersey under the Uniform Reciprocal Support Act, and the Minnesota court reaffirmed D.'s obligation to provide support but specifically conditioned the same upon L.'s willingness to abide by an order granting D. visitation privileges.
Initially D. complied with the order of support; however, when L. again moved to an undisclosed address in New Jersey, he discontinued providing child support.
In 1978 D., through the assistance of the public agencies in Minnesota and New Jersey, finally located his former wife and learned of her remarriage to the plaintiff F. He again petitioned the Minnesota court for relief and the natural mother, now Mrs. F., was personally served in New Jersey and fully participated through counsel in the Minnesota proceedings. The Minnesota court expunged all arrears that had accrued respecting child support and again conditioned future child support payments on Mrs. F.'s willingness to afford D. visitation with his daughters.
In March 1979 the natural father, without prior contact or announcement, traveled from Minnesota to New Jersey, located Mrs. F. and plaintiff F., and visited his children at the home of his former wife and plaintiff.
Subsequent to this successful visit the two children, whose adoption is now sought, began to communicate with their natural father and ...