In the Matter of Baby M – 109 N.J. 396 (1988)

Case Name: In the Matter of Baby M
Citation: 109 N.J. 396; 537 A.2d 1227; 1988

Issue: Whether the plaintiff could enforce a surrogacy contract which terminated the parental rights of the defendant mother and awarded sole custody to plaintiff father.

Procedural History: Defendant surrogate mother challenged the order of the Superior Court (New Jersey) that enforced the terms of a surrogate parent contract on behalf of plaintiff father. Defendant claimed that the surrogacy contract was invalid; that the trial court improperly terminated her parental rights and awarded sole custody to plaintiff father, and improperly allowed the adoption of the child by plaintiff’s wife, all pursuant to the terms of the contract.

Key Facts: On direct certification from the trial court, the court reversed the order that terminated defendant surrogate mother’s parental rights, restored her as the mother of the child, and invalidated the surrogacy contract entered into between plaintiff father and defendant. The court ruled that the contract was invalid as a matter of law, because it violated statute and was against public policy. The court found that private placement adoption was disfavored, that the payment of money made the contract illegal and possibly criminal under N.J. Stat. Ann. 9:3-54, and that it was vested with an element of coercion. The court ruled that the agreement was totally unenforceable. The court determined that the statute required a surrender of the child to a public agency and then a termination proceeding, which could only proceed after counseling. The court held that the termination of defendant’s parental rights called for by the surrogacy contract and ordered by the trial court, failed to comply with statutory requirements. The court ruled that no one can contractually abandon one’s parental rights. The court held that because the termination was invalid, the adoption was invalid.

Holding: The court invalidated the surrogacy contract because it conflicted with the law and public policy of the state.

Judgment: The court granted custody to plaintiff father, voided both the termination of the surrogate mother’s parental rights and the adoption of the child by plaintiff’s wife, and restored defendant surrogate mother as the mother of the child. The court remanded the case on the issue of visitation only.

Bayliss v. Bayliss – 550 So. 2d 986 (Ala. 1989)

Case Name: Bayliss v. Bayliss
Citation: 550 So. 2d 986 (Ala. 1989)

Issue: Does a non-custodial parent have a legal obligation to pay for college expenses for their post-minority child?

  • Post-minority: over the age of 18 but still unable to support themselves.

Key Facts: Patrick Bayliss was the son of Cherry R. Bayliss and John Martin Bayliss III. The couple divorced when Patrick was 12 years old. When he was 18, his mother filed a petition to modify the final judgment of divorce to order her ex-husband to pay for Patrick’s college.

Holding:  Yes the court has a right to assure that the children of divorced parents, who are minors at the time of divorce, are given the same right to a college education before and after they reach the age of 19 years that they probably would have if their parents had not divorced.

Reasoning: In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or a modification of a divorce judgment, a trial court may award sums of money out of the property and income of either or both parents for the post-minority education of a child of that dissolved marriage, when application is made therefore, before the child attains the age of majority.
The trial court should consider factors including primarily the financial resources of the parents and the child and the child’s commitment to, and aptitude for, the requested education. The trial court also may consider, the standard of living that the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved and the family unit had been preserved and the child’s relationship with his parents and responsiveness to parental advice and guidance.