IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF MICHAEL D. FISHER, II A-0878-14T2In this case of first impression, we interpret N.J.S.A. 3B:5-14.1(b)(1), which provides that a parent who is deemed to have "abandoned" his or her child "by willfully forsaking" the child is barred from sharing in the child's estate if the child dies intestate. Among other things, we conclude that the party seeking to apply the statute to bar recovery must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the parent, through his or her intentional conduct, manifested a settled purpose to permanently forego all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims to the child.
In our case, we determined that while the parent did not take the steps needed to resume parenting time with his child after a final restraining order prohibiting parenting time was issued near the time of the parties' divorce, he did not intend to permanently forego all parental duties and claims. Most notably, the parent continued to pay child support, and was in contact with the child over social media several months prior to the child's death.