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Whether the consent of the father is required for adoption. Statini v. Reed 2022 N.Y. Slip Op. 4304 (N.Y. App. Div. 2022)


In general, it is necessary for both parents to consent to an adoption to ensure that the child’s best interests are protected and to maintain the integrity of the family unit. This requirement serves as a safeguard to prevent the involuntary termination of parental rights and ensures that both parents have a say in the future of their child. By requiring the consent of both parents, the adoption process aims to promote stability and permanency for the child while respecting the rights of biological parents. Additionally, obtaining consent from both parents helps to establish a legal framework for the adoption, providing clarity and certainty for all parties involved. However, there are exceptions to this general rule.

In Statini v. Reed, 2022 N.Y. Slip Op. 4304 (N.Y. App. Div. 2022), the Family Court of Dutchess County faced the issue of the legalities surrounding an adoption of a child with the consent of the father.

Background Facts
The mother and Maximino S.-C. contested an order from the Family Court of Dutchess County, dated September 14, 2021. The order said the father’s agreement was needed for the child’s adoption, leading to the dismissal of the adoption request.

The child was born in February 2012 to unmarried parents, the mother, and the father, who were not living together. Later, in January 2013, the Family Court gave sole custody of the child to the mother. They also stopped the father from seeing the child, but said he could ask for changes after leaving prison.

The father faced periods of being in and out of prison, impacting his ability to contact the child. He claimed release in February 2017, then was jailed again in January 2018, and re-released in January 2019. Another arrest happened in September 2019. During a jail term in July 2020, he asked for access to the child.

Meanwhile, the mother, now with Maximino S.-C., sought to adopt the child. The father also asked to change the custody order to allow him to see the child.

After a hearing, the Family Court decided the father had not abandoned the child but still needed to agree to the adoption. This led to the adoption request being dismissed, prompting an appeal from the mother and Maximino S.-C.

The central issue in the case was whether the father’s consent to the adoption was necessary under the law. Specifically, the court had to determine if the father had maintained substantial and continuous contact with the child, as required by Domestic Relations Law § 111(1)(d), and if he had forfeited his rights by failing to do so.

The court held that the father had failed to establish substantial and continuous contact with the child as mandated by law, thereby rendering his consent unnecessary.

The court’s rationale for its decision rested on the interpretation and application of Domestic Relations Law § 111(1)(d), which outlines the circumstances under which a father’s consent to the adoption of a child born out of wedlock is required. The court scrutinized whether the father had maintained substantial and continuous contact with the child as mandated by the law.

In analyzing the case, the court considered the father’s actions, particularly regarding financial support and attempts to establish contact with the child. It noted the absence of evidence showing that the father had contributed financially to the child’s upbringing, despite periods of release from incarceration when he could have done so. Additionally, the court highlighted the father’s failure to petition for contact through appropriate legal channels during times when he was not incarcerated.

Based on these findings, the court concluded that the father had not met the statutory requirements for consent to the adoption. His lack of financial support and failure to seek contact with the child during periods of freedom led the court to determine that his consent was not necessary for the adoption to proceed.

The court’s decision to reverse the Family Court’s ruling reinstated the adoption petition, indicating that the father’s consent was not necessary for the adoption to proceed. The case highlights the importance of fulfilling legal obligations regarding parental rights and responsibilities in adoption proceedings involving children born out of wedlock.


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