Step Parent Adoption in New Jersey
Getting married sometimes involves more than just gaining a spouse; it can also mean sharing the responsibility of caring for your spouse’s child from a previous marriage. This can be a very loving and healthy relationship, and sometimes the step parent, together with the natural parent, wants to make it legal and official through step parent adoption.
Under New Jersey law a child cannot have three legal parents, so in order for a stepparent to adopt their spouse’s child, the other birth parent must surrender their parental rights.
Surrender of Parental Rights
The surrender of the birth parent’s legal rights to the child can be done voluntarily or by court order. If the birth parent chooses to do it voluntarily, they simply need to sign a legal form acknowledging that they agree to the step parent adoption and give up their parental rights.
If the birth parent refuses or cannot be found, their parental rights will need to be terminated by the court in order for the step parent adoption to proceed. The court may order the termination of a birth parent’s parental rights for various reasons:
- The best interests of the child. The court decides that the birth parent has endangered the child’s well being and will continue to do so.
- Conviction of any crime against children, such as neglect, abandonment, or abuse.
- Failure by the birth parent to take corrective measures set forth by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (if the DCCP has had prior involvement in the case.)
Once the birth parent’s parental rights have been relinquished, they will no longer have the right to seek visitation, nor will they be required to pay any child support. However, in some cases, they may still be able to see the child if all parties agree.
The Step Parent Adoption Hearing
Once the other birth parent’s rights have been terminated, the stepparent must go through a background check to ensure that they are fit to raise the child. After the background check is complete, a court hearing is scheduled, which the child must attend if they are age ten or older. Once the hearing is complete, the judge will sign the adoption judgement and make the adoption official.
Reliable legal counsel is essential for navigating the complicated adoption process. For help getting started with the NJ step parent adoption process, contact us today.