Sorentino v. Family and Children's Society of Elizabeth

72 N.J. 127, 367 A.2d 1168 (1976)

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Sorentino v. Family and Children’s Society of Elizabeth

New Jersey Supreme Court
72 N.J. 127, 367 A.2d 1168 (1976)

Facts

Constance Severini (plaintiff) gave birth to a child on May 5, 1974, when Severini was 16 years old. Severini agreed for Family and Children’s Society of Elizabeth (the agency) (defendant) to have custody for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, Severini would decide whether to keep or relinquish custody. On June 28, 1974, Severini notified the agency that she wanted to retain custody, but an agency representative threatened and pressured Severini until she agreed to relinquishment. The agency placed the child with a potential adoptive family (defendant). On the advice of counsel, Severini and Philip Sorentino (plaintiff), the child’s father, waited until Severini turned 18 in the summer of 1975 to file a complaint against the agency and the potential adoptive family. At trial in September 1975, the court determined that Severini’s relinquishment was coerced and that Severini and Sorentino were fit to take custody of the child. The court ordered the child’s immediate transfer to Severini and Sorentino. The agency and potential adoptive family appealed. The appellate court issued a stay on the transfer of custody and then affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The New Jersey Supreme Court continued the stay, with the result that the child was still with the potential adoptive family when the supreme court issued its opinion.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Concurrence/Dissent (Conford, J.)

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