Stepparent Adoptions in New Jersey—The Basics

Stepparent Adoptions in New JerseyWhen you are divorced with minor children, and you remarry, you may consider having your new spouse legally adopt your children. There can be a number of tangible benefits to doing this:

  • If the other biological parent is abusive, obstinate or unfit to be a parent, you can legally limit his or her access to the child.
  • Your new spouse will have the legal right to participate in decisions regarding the child’s welfare.
  • The children may be entitled to certain work-related benefits.
  • It can help your new spouse build a strong relationship with your children.

In some instances, completing a stepparent adoption is relatively simple, but it also can be fraught with challenges. Here are some of the fundamental things you need to know about the stepparent adoption process in New Jersey:

  • There are age restrictions. A person must be at least 18 years old to be a stepparent. In addition, the stepparent must be at least 10 years older than the adopted child. You can always petition the court to remove those restrictions if doing so is in the best interests of the minor child.
  • You must obtain a termination of the parental rights of the other parent. The easiest way is for the other biological parent to voluntarily relinquish all parental rights. If the other parent is unwilling to do so, however, you must petition the court to terminate their rights. In New Jersey, parental rights can be terminated only if the parent is deemed unfit. Some of the factors that might form the basis for a ruling of unfitness are neglect and abandonment, substance abuse, or evidence of criminal activity. Failure to pay child support is not sufficient grounds for termination of parental rights.
  • If the child to be adopted is over the age of 10, his or her preference may be considered, but the court will have sole discretion to make a decision in the best interests of the child.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will take your case only if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Stepparent Adoption in NJ

Stepparent Adoption in New Jersey

If you’ve remarried after divorce and you have children from your prior marriage, you may want to consider having your new spouse legally adopt your children. Some of the benefits include:

  • The legal right to make decisions about medical care, education, religious training and other life concerns for your stepchild
  • A potentially greater bond with your stepchild
  • A greater sense of security for the stepchild, particularly if the biological parent is absent
  • It will ensure that your stepchild has access to health insurance and other benefits through your employer

As a general rule, stepparent adoptions are simpler than other types of adoptions. In many states, including New Jersey, there’s no requirement that you complete a home study. Nonetheless, the process can take a few months.

Often, the biggest challenge with a stepparent adoption is obtaining a termination of the parental rights of the non-custodial parent. The easiest way to do that is to convince the non-custodial parent to voluntarily relinquish parental rights. Because the termination of parental rights also terminates the obligation to pay child support, that can be an attractive option for some non-custodial parents. However, it also extinguishes the right to visitation with the child.

If you cannot get the non-custodial parent to voluntarily give up parental rights, you can ask the court to terminate those rights. A judge will typically not allow a termination without sufficient cause, such as abandonment, documented domestic abuse or unfitness to be a parent. Among the factors that contribute to a finding of unfitness are history of substance abuse, incarceration or neglect.

You can also terminate the rights of a non-custodial father if you can provide evidence that he’s not the biological parent. DNA evidence is customarily sufficient.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.