Many new spouses take on parenting roles for a child of divorced parents. One of the most common types of adoption in the United States is stepparent adoption. This may be appropriate when a stepparent takes on a parenting role for a child, and the child's noncustodial parent is either deceased or no longer wants responsibilities or rights in connection with his or her child. However, a New Jersey stepparent should not initiate an adoption if he or she does not plan to be a child's parent permanently. As our child custody attorneys are aware, stepparent adoption may also be inappropriate if the child does not want to be adopted, or if the noncustodial parent wants to retain rights with regard to the child. The Monmouth County adoption lawyers at Goldstein Law Group can guide you through this process.Stepparent Adoption in New Jersey
In filing for adoption, a stepparent agrees to take full responsibility for his or her spouse's child. The non-custodial parent no longer has rights or responsibilities for the child, and any child support obligation will be terminated. A stepparent must be at least 18 and at least 10 years older than the child to be adopted in order to initiate the adoption. In some cases, a stepparent may request a waiver of the age requirement.
When a child is 10 years old or older, he or she is required to appear at the adoption hearing and may state a preference unless the requirement of appearing is waived by the court for good cause. The judge also has discretion whether to give weight to a child's preference about the adoption. The foremost concern of the court if all parties agree to the adoption is the best interests of the child to be adopted.
In many cases, an adoption cannot go forward unless the non-custodial biological parent agrees to a voluntary termination of parental rights. The child's custodial parent must also give written consent to the adoption unless the stepparent has already divorced the custodial parent, and both biological parents have either had their rights voluntarily terminated, are dead, or are declared unfit. In the event that the child's parents are dead, a step-parent will have to show good cause for why the court should allow the adoption rather than give custody to other relatives.
New Jersey only permits a non-voluntary termination of rights when a noncustodial parent has been deemed unfit to care for the child or children. Lack of fitness to parent usually applies when there is neglect or abandonment. Failure to pay child support is not determinative of a non-custodial parent's fitness. Having a discussion about voluntary termination of rights can be difficult for everyone involved. Our office can work with your family to resolve these issues effectively.
In order to initiate the adoption process after termination of parental rights or death of a noncustodial biological parent, a stepparent will need to file a Complaint for Adoption in the county where the child lives. The noncustodial parent has 20 days to respond and contest.Seek Guidance from a Monmouth County Lawyer on the Adoption Process
The adoption process is complex. At Goldstein Law Group, our family law attorneys possesses close ties to the people in our community. We understand how stressful the stepparent adoption process can be for all parties, and we know the pitfalls of filing for adoption. We help our clients seek an outcome suited to them with as little emotional upheaval as possible. Many of the individuals whom we have represented have come from Manalapan, Old Bridge, and Freehold, among other communities. You can contact us at 732-967-6777 or via our online form for a free consultation with a Monmouth County adoption attorney.