New Jersey Step-Parent Adoption Lawyer
As a step-parent, you may love and care for your step-child as if they were their own. However, in New Jersey, you do not have a legal relationship with your step-child, and their legal parents may prevent you from having contact with them. If your spouse dies, your step-child may not even be able to continue living with you.
An adoption could secure your right to care for your step-child and make your relationship permanent. If you are considering adopting your step-child, a New Jersey step-parent adoption lawyer could discuss your family’s situation and answer any questions you may have about the process.
When a Step-Parent May Adopt
If a step-parent has assumed a parental role in a child’s life, and the child’s legal or biological parents give their consent, the step-parent may pursue an adoption. New Jersey law requires that a step-parent seeking to adopt commits to serving as the child’s legal parent for the child’s entire life. A judge overseeing the adoption proceedings must determine that this development is in the child’s best interests.
Step-Parent Adoption Laws in New Jersey
A step-parent must meet specific legal requirements to adopt their step-child, including:
- The step-parent must be at least 18 years of age and ten years older than the child they want to adopt unless a judge grants a waiver
- Both of the child’s legal or biological parents must consent to the adoption unless a New Jersey judge determines that a parent’s consent is not required
- A child over ten years old must consent to the adoption
- The step-parent must be deemed suitable to adopt by the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP)
- The step-parent must submit to a home study unless a judge grants a waiver
If the child is over age 18 and an adult, the consent of the other legal parent is not required. A New Jersey lawyer could explain the state’s adoption laws and ensure that a step-parent meets these requirements.
Termination of Parental Rights
When a judge grants a step-parent adoption in New Jersey, the parental rights of the child’s other biological or legal parent are terminated. A parent whose rights have been terminated has no further parenting responsibilities and does not have to pay child support. The adoption does not impact the parenting rights of the step-parent’s spouse.
The Procedure for a Step-Parent Adoption
If no second parent has parental rights to the child, a step-parent may file for adoption in New Jersey as long as they do so within three months of the child’s birth. The step-parent may file a Complaint for Adoption with the family court in the county where the child resides. The other parent must be given sufficient notice of the complaint and the pending adoption proceeding. Upon receiving notice, the parent has 20 days to respond and may consent to or contest the adoption.
A judge will then hold an adoption hearing. If the child to be adopted is ten years of age or older, they may appear in court and express their preference regarding the adoption. At the hearing, a judge will listen to the evidence and determine if the adoption is in the child’s best interests. An experienced New Jersey attorney could explain the process and represent the adopting step-parent in court.
Let a New Jersey Step-Parent Adoption Attorney Take on Your Case
The legal requirements for a step-parent adoption may vary depending on whether the legal parents consent, whose name is on the child’s birth certificate, and the ages of the child and the adopting step-parent. This area of law is complex, so it may be helpful to have skilled legal counsel throughout the adoption process.
A New Jersey step-parent adoption lawyer could help you determine your eligibility to adopt, obtain the necessary consent, and submit the adoption petition to the court. After the adoption proceedings, our firm’s attorney could ensure that you receive an amended birth certificate identifying you and your spouse as the child’s legal parents. Call today to learn more.