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Bennett v. Marrow

Supreme Court of New York
399 N.Y.S.2d 697 (1977)


Facts

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 Marrow (defendant). Marrow 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. At a hearing, several witnesses testified that Gina’s time spent with Bennett had been detrimental to Gina’s emotional and psychological development. Conversely, the evidence showed that Gina had flourished while in Marrow’s custody. Additionally, Gina expressed a preference to live with Marrow. 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 Marrow. Bennett appealed. The appellate court reversed and held that despite Marrow’s interest in adopting Gina, Marrow could not adopt Gina because: (1) Bennett’s parental rights had not been terminated, and (2) Marrow 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. Marrow appealed. The Court of Appeals of New York reversed the judgment of the appellate court and remanded the matter to the trial court for a new hearing. The new hearing extended over a four-week period, during which the trial court heard the testimony of 26 witnesses and ultimately awarded custody of Gina to Marrow. Bennett appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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