The parties to this divorce action are practicing professionals: plaintiff husband, a pediatric dentist, and defendant wife, a psychologist. They met in August, 1990. By mid-September, 1990, three weeks after their introduction, having discussed defendant's earnest desire for a child, the parties agreed to marry; they were married on December 9, 1990.
From the outset, the parties' relationship was less than sublime: as early as January 4, 1991, plaintiff complained to the defendant in writing about a lack of mutual trust; in February, 1991, plaintiff raised the possibility of divorce.
Defendant became pregnant in November, 1990, and shortly thereafter advised the plaintiff of her pregnancy. Plaintiff wrote to the defendant in early January, 1991 expressing his view of the effects of the marital strife upon the expected baby:
"I will not under any circumstances begin to raise a child between disparate parents. There must be harmony and uniformity by mutual agreement and compromise."
"It has become, unfortunately, increasingly obvious to me that we cannot exist together as a family unit. I don't think [the baby] will ever have a father unless you come to some serious terms about where you are headed."
The parties were living in defendant's home when their daughter, R., was born on August 6, 1991. On August 15, 1991, apparently in response to demands of the defendant, plaintiff left the home. He has not spoken to defendant since then, and he has neither seen nor visited with his daughter since that date; the child has been in the sole care of the defendant since that time.
Plaintiff filed for divorce immediately after the separation. Each party thereafter retained counsel. Following negotiation,
the parties entered into an October 22, 1991, Property Settlement and Separation Agreement, presented before the Court as part of the parties' divorce on that date. The Agreement is unremarkable but for the following provisions:
TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF R.H.
Any and all parental rights of plaintiff, [R.H.], toward the child, [R.], born August 6, 1991, be and are hereby terminated. Plaintiff assumes for the purposes of this surrender of parental rights that the child born of the marriage is his child.
Full, sole and complete legal and physical custody of the child shall be with the defendant-counterclaimant, [M.K.] Plaintiff shall have no visitation whatsoever with the child now or at anytime in the future no matter what the circumstances.
Plaintiff has not visited with nor seen the child since August 15, the first week of her birth. There has been no bonding between the child and the father. Since her birth, the child has been in the sole and exclusive care ...