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Assembly Approves Vainieri Huttle & Quijano Bill to Protect Children & Adoptive Parents from Stalking & Domestic Violence

Bill Would Amend Current Law to Protect New Families from a Biological Parent Whose Parental Rights have been Terminated

Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Annette Quijano to protect adopted children and their adoptive parents from stalking and violence by a parent whose parental rights have been terminated cleared the full Assembly on Monday.

“Once a safe home has been provided for a child victim of domestic violence, it is up to the law to keep the child and new family protected from further victimization,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This bill would help to do exactly that. Extending protection under the law is the right thing to do.”

The bill (A-781), approved by a vote of 78-0, was inspired by a number of cases in which an adoptive parent alleges to have been harassed by biological parents who have had their parental rights terminated. This bill is intended to offer protections to these adoptive parents and their children.

“This legislation would allow New Jersey to strengthen protections for domestic violence victims,” said Quijano (D-Union). “A new family and a new home is a chance for these children to begin again. The law should protect their new parents and their new safe haven.”

Specifically, the bill would expand the scope of current law pertaining to stalking in order to make the crime of stalking and related restraining order protections expressly applicable to situations involving contact or attempted contact between an adoptive child and former parent whose parental rights have been terminated, contrary to the instructions of the child’s adoptive parent.

In doing so, the bill would expressly make such unwanted contact a crime of the third or fourth degree, depending on the circumstances. A crime of the third degree would be punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both; a crime of the fourth degree is ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

The bill would also permit an adoptive parent to obtain a temporary restraining order against the person whose parental rights to the child have been terminated. Such an order could also be converted into a permanent restraining order upon a judgment of conviction against the person based on a conviction for the crime of stalking.

The bill presents a range of criminal acts that could trigger the imposing of restraints, including assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, false imprisonment, harassment, and stalking.

The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.