Adoption is one of the most wonderful and altruistic things any family can choose to do. The adoption process, unfortunately, can seem daunting and discouraging. Moreover, there are a variety of avenues for adopting, including privately-coordinated adoptions, adoptions through non-profits and state agencies, and international adoptions. Below, we discuss the process for undergoing private adoptions in New Jersey.
If you are considering adoption, talk to a qualified and compassionate New Jersey adoption lawyer for assistance.
Options for Private Adoptions
Private adoptions in New Jersey generally come in one of two forms: (1) adoption directly from the birth parents (also called “private placement adoption,”) and (2) adoption through an approved private agency. The legal requirements and processes for each are slightly different.
Regardless of the type of adoption, there are minimum legal requirements the prospective parents must satisfy. At a minimum, anyone wishing to adopt must be at least 18 years old and at least ten years older than the child they are seeking to adopt. A married person must either jointly adopt with their spouse, obtain written consent from their spouse, or be living separate and apart from their spouse.
Prospective families must also satisfy certain conditions to establish that they can provide a fit and healthy home for adoptive children. The prospective parents must undergo a home study, criminal background checks, and child abuse registry checks, and they must obtain a court judgment of adoption.
The Home Study
For either type of adoption, an agency will conduct a home study of the prospective family. The study includes interviews with the parents and all adults residing in the home, a health assessment of the parents, and a review of the parents’ employment record, references, finances, and other pertinent information.
The Court Process
In order to finalize an adoption, the prospective parents must file a “complaint for adoption” in the court. The timing of the complaint may vary depending on the type of adoption. The court will hold one or two hearings at which the parents will be present to evaluate the complaint and determine whether the adoption should go through. Upon approving the adoption, the court will issue a judgment finalizing the adoption. Several months later, the State of New Jersey will issue an amended birth certificate and seal the original birth certificate.
Adoption Through a Private Agency
A private agency adoption is facilitated by a private agency. The agency will obtain the “surrender” of parental rights from the birth mother at least 72 hours after birth, which will transfer parental rights to the agency. The agency will then be responsible for finding a placement, although birth parents are typically involved in choosing a placement.
Prospective parents will set up a profile with the agency, including letters and videos showcasing their home and family. The agency will conduct a home study to ensure that the home is fit and safe for adoptive children. Once a home is chosen, the child will be placed with the adoptive family. After six months of taking care of the adoptive child, the parents can file their complaint about adoption in court. Typically, the court will schedule the first hearing ten to 30 days later. The agency may recommend an earlier hearing if there are specific issues to address, such as if the birth father has not relinquished his rights.
Direct or Private Placement Adoption
Birth parents may work directly with adoptive parents to facilitate an adoption, for example, if they personally know the adoptive parents. This is alternatively known as a private placement adoption, an independent adoption, or a direct domestic adoption. An adoption agency will still be involved to oversee the process. A home study and court proceeding will still be required (and adoptive parents must file their complaint for adoption within 45 days of receiving the child), but the process is likely to be expedited.
There are legal limitations, including restrictions on the types of expenses that the adoptive parents may cover for birth parents (i.e., they cannot simply pay the birth parents to buy their child). Make sure to work with an experienced New Jersey adoption lawyer to facilitate your private adoption and avoid any pitfalls or legal issues.
Let a Dedicated New Jersey Adoption Attorney Help You Expand Your Family and Share Your Love
If you’re considering adoption in New Jersey or if you are facing child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.