Adopting Step Children In New Jersey
Know your rights and the rights of your blended family during the adoption process
Blending your families can be an exciting experience but complicated by the many legal rules surrounding stepparent adoption in New Jersey. Being knowledgeable about your rights is important, but many people are not aware that the most common type of adoption within New Jersey is that of a stepparent adopting a stepchild. The sooner you talk to a lawyer, the easier it will be to understand what is involved in a stepparent adoption. Walking things through with a lawyer can help you avoid mistakes and ensure that this momentous and important occasion for your family is handled with care. With the right NJ adoption lawyer, you will feel well taken care of.
Not surprising, perhaps, stepparent adoption is the second-most-common form of adoption in the United States behind foster parent adoptions. A stepparent adoption refers to the assumption of a child’s mother or father’s legal role in the child’s biological parent’s absence.
Stepparent adoption may happen due to a divorced parent remarrying, and the child’s natural parent is either unwilling, unable, or legally declared unfit to fulfill the parental role. There are other circumstances where a stepparent adoption occurs after the child’s biological parent’s death to whom the other parent was married or, less often, after the divorce of a stepparent and biological parent.
How does the adoption process take place?
For an adult to adopt a stepchild, they must be married to the child’s biological parent. Furthermore, the non-custodial parent’s rights must have already been terminated. This might be the first reason why you scheduled a consultation with a New Jersey adoption attorney. Biological parents’ rights can be terminated involuntarily or voluntarily. If the biological non-custodial parent intends to voluntarily terminate their parental rights, the non-custodial parent must sign a form that officially relinquishes their parental rights. Besides, involuntary termination is often possible too.
18 years of age and 10 years older than the child
New Jersey does require that the stepparent be at least 18 years of age to initiate the adoption proceedings and must also be at least 10 years older than the child(ren) whom he or she is seeking to adopt. Under certain circumstances, the Court can choose to waive this requirement.
Must have the support of both biological parents
The stepparent who wishes to adopt their stepchild must garner both biological parents’ support, not just the parent they are seeking to replace. If the stepparent has since divorced the custodial parent, the stepparent does not need consent. Still, both biological parents will either need to terminate their respective parental rights first voluntarily, be deceased, or the parents will both need to be declared unfit. The stepparent will have to show cause for taking custody of the child over any other prospective relatives, such as biological grandparents, older siblings, or aunts and uncles.
Background Check and Adoption Hearing
That also means that the custodial parent cannot collect expenses or child support from the non-custodial parent. After a biological parent’s rights have been terminated involuntarily or voluntarily, the stepparent must complete a background check. This usually involves a check with multiple agencies and verification to determine whether domestic violence charges have been applied in the past. After this check is complete and the adoption hearing is scheduled, the child must be present during the hearing if the child is older than 10. The stepparent becomes the child’s official legal parent and enjoins the same duties, relationships, and obligations as if they were born to that parent directly.
Can the adoption process be reversed if things do not work out?
The choice to enter into a stepparent adoption is a serious matter with long-standing consequences. After it is granted, the stepparent is considered the child’s legal parent and responsible for all child support and needs. This responsibility would carry through even in the event that divorce was to occur subsequently. Although the future dissolution of stepparent adoptions may be obtainable in New Jersey, no stepparent may initiate an adoption if he or she does not intend to remain a legal parent of the child forever. The Family Court in New Jersey must act in the child’s best interest in determining whether stepparent adoption is appropriate. The Judge may also consider the child’s preference, but it is not the sole factor that the Court will look at in determining whether a stepparent adoption is appropriate.
Contact our Little Falls Adoption and Family Law Attorneys Today
Stepparent adoption can be especially complex if you are not familiar with rights or common challenges. For this reason, you will want to consult with an experienced attorney immediately to protect your interests from the outset of your concerns.
The Montanari Law Group can provide you with all of the help you could need while processing your adoption. Filing all of the proper paperwork and staying on top of the timelines associated with a stepparent adoption is extremely important for you and your loved ones. Proper adherence to all of this documentation and the court’s rules can make things smooth for everyone involved. Contact us at (973) 233-4396 or contact us online.