In this unique family law case, Martha Major consulted us about her children’s “deadbeat dad”. Martha’s former husband, Mark, who resides outside New Jersey, failed to maintain child support for the parties’ two young children, accrued significant arrears in his court ordered child support, and failed to see or emotionally support the children on a regular basis.
Martha, now remarried, has a loving relationship with her new husband, Max. Martha and Max have an infant son together, and Max is a very devoted father. Max lives with Martha’s two children and regularly expresses his deep love and affection for them, which they reciprocate. The two children are “crazy” about little Marvin, who was their half-brother.
Martha wanted immediate relief from her ex-husband’s selfish behavior. We advised Martha that it is often difficult to enforce child support between states. While it can be done, it is time consuming, expensive, and not a sure thing. We asked Martha and Max whether Max had any interest in pursuing adoption of Martha’s two children, which seemed like a perfect solution for Mark, Max, Martha, and the three children.
When Max said he would adopt the children if Mark were willing to surrender them, we suggested that Martha go to Mark, out of state, and ask him if he might consider relinquishing his rights to the children and his future contacts with them. It was a long shot, but, amazingly, it turned out that Mark had no interest in continuing his relationship with the two children. For him, out of sight meant out of mind. And Mark’s child support obligation would disappear upon Max’s stepping in as the children’s adoptive father.
Mark signed a voluntary consent to termination of his rights to the two children, and Max filed a Complaint for Adoption that would unite the new family unit forever in the eyes of the law. The process took close to a year, and culminated in a hearing in which Martha, Max, and the two children testified to their joint support of Max’s legal adoption. The children testified that Max “is more of a father to us than our biological dad ever was.” On a beautiful and joyous day in Mount Laurel, the Majors were united as a five-member family, by the act of a Superior Court Judge. It was a deeply satisfying moment for the Majors, certainly. It was also one of the most meaningful and memorable days in Family Court for our legal team.