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Bennett v. Jeffreys

Court of Appeals of New York
356 N.E.2d 277 (1976)


At the age of 15 years, Joanne Bennett (plaintiff) gave birth to a daughter, Gina, who was immediately placed in the care and custody of a family friend, Marie Jeffreys (defendant). Afterward, Jeffreys cared for Gina and expressed an interest in adopting when Gina was older. When Gina turned eight years old, Bennett filed a petition for custody of Gina. The family court found that although Bennett had not surrendered or abandoned Gina and was not an unfit mother, Gina should remain in the custody of Jeffreys. Bennett appealed. The appellate court reversed and held that, despite Jeffreys’s interest in adopting Gina, Jeffreys could not adopt Gina, because: (1) Bennett’s parental rights had not been terminated, and (2) Jeffreys could not afford the adoption process and had not taken steps to do so. In awarding custody of Gina to Bennett, the appellate court concluded that Bennett, who was 23 years old, had significantly matured, was about to graduate from college, and had expressed an eagerness to assume parental duties. Jeffreys appealed. The Court of Appeals of New York granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Breitel, C.J.)

Concurrence (Fuchsberg, J.)

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