The adoption of a child is a big decision for both birth parents and adoptive parents. There are laws in place to protect those who wish to place a child for adoption, as well as protect the children and parents who will provide a home to an adoptive child. The laws governing adoption in New Jersey are found in New Jersey Revised Statutes Title 9. There are laws in place to govern not only private domestic adoptions, but also foreign adoptions, as well as adoptions from the foster care system.
The adoption laws can vary significantly depending upon the type of adoption being pursued, with special rules for certain types of adoptions, such as step-parent adoptions. A New Jersey family attorney should be consulted for assistance in order to make certain that all legal steps are taken to ensure the adoption is finalized properly and the child is protected.
Understanding New Jersey’s Adoption Laws
New Jersey’s adoption laws protect the rights of both birth parents to their child. Under Title 9:17-40, both a mother and father have parental rights, regardless of marital status. Unless either parent has had his or her parental rights involuntarily terminated, both parents must consent to the adoption.
To ensure that a birth father is given the opportunity to consent, Title 9:3-39.1 requires the father to be provided with written notice of the plan to place a child for adoption. This notice must be provided and receipt of notice confirmed in writing, unless the father has voluntarily or involuntarily surrendered his rights or cannot be notified.
If a father denies paternity at any time (including any time before the child’s birth), this is deemed as a surrender and the child can be placed for adoption by the birth mother.
If the birth parents give consent to adoption, this consent can be executed as long as at least 72 hours have passed since the birth of the child, according to Title 9:3-41(e). A birth mother can change her mind before signing the legal consent to adoption. However, if the adoptive parents paid expenses during the pregnancy, she could face a civil lawsuit to recoup the costs.
Once a birth mother signs valid consent forms to adoption, which are executed in accordance with the law, the consent to adopt is considered valid, binding and irrevocable. Her parental rights are terminated permanently, unless the court sets aside consent because of proof of fraud, duress or misrepresentation.
Anyone can be an adoptive parent and can adopt a child with the consent of the birth mother, provided they meet the requirements set forth under New Jersey laws, including Title 9:3-43.
Under this law, the person seeking to adopt must be at least 18 years of age and must be 10 years older than the child who is being adopted. If a married couple wishes to adopt, they must apply jointly. Also, a home study may be required under Title 9:30-54.2.
These basic rules apply in most adoptions, but there is a myriad of other requirements when a child is adopted through the foster care system or through an adoptive agency. There are also different rules for step-parent adoptions or adoptions by relatives.
An experienced family lawyer with Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, can provide guidance on the laws applicable to your particular situation when you are placing a child for adoption or adopting a child into your family. Contact us today.