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Stepparent Adoptions in New Jersey

August 29, 2016 | Posted In Family Law

In many situations, a stepparent will make the decision to adopt a stepchild. There are streamlined procedures under the law to make this type of adoption easier than other adoptions that take place. However, while the law aims to facilitate the process of stepparent adoption, this type of adoption is not necessarily an option in every case and is not necessarily the right choice for every family.

If you are considering stepparent adoption, a New Jersey family law attorney should be consulted. Your attorney can provide information on whether adoption is possible in your situation and can explain the lasting implications of stepparent adoption. If you determine stepparent adoption is both possible and advisable, your attorney will assist with the process.

Is Stepparent Adoption Possible?

The first question when deciding whether stepparent adoption is a good idea for your family is to determine whether it is even an option. A child can only have two legal parents, so stepparent adoption is not going to be possible if both biological parents still have and wish to retain their parental rights. A child can only be adopted by a stepparent if either the child's mother or child's father has had parental rights terminated or has relinquished his or her parental rights.

This means if the child's mother and father are both still legal parents, a stepparent will not be able to adopt. If both of the children's biological parents are known and neither has had their parental rights terminated, both biological parents would have to consent to the adoption. One of the two parents would also have to give up his or her legal rights.

For example, if the child's mother was married and a stepfather wanted to adopt the child, the biological father would have to give up his rights (or have them terminated) and the biological mother and biological father would both have to agree to allow the stepfather to adopt.  If the child does not have a father or the father's parental rights have already been surrendered or terminated, then the adoption could move forward with just the consent of the mother.

Is Stepparent Adoption a Good Idea?

If stepparent adoption is possible, you also need to consider whether it is the right choice or not. The benefit of the adoption is that it makes the relationship between the child and stepparent permanent. However, this could be a downside for some families as well.

Once the adoption has been completed, the adoptive stepparent has full rights to the child and the relationship between stepparent and stepchild isn't conditioned on the marriage continuing. If the parent and stepparent divorce, the stepparent could seek custody of the child and could be made to pay child support just as if the child had been his or her own.

An experienced family law attorney in New Jersey can provide advice on the implications of stepparent adoption as you make your decision on whether you want to pursue this option.  If you decide stepparent adoption is a good choice, an attorney at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, P.A. can guide you through the formal steps that must be taken for the adoption to be finalized.

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