New Jersey Adoption Law
The guiding law in New Jersey concerning the adoption of minor children is the New Jersey Adoption Act, N.J.S.A. 9:3-37 to 56. Over the history of the Act, it has developed to include not only the best interests of the child but also accounts for the rights and interests of adoptive and birth parents. The Act heavily focuses on the interest of the child, and children are even considered to have a say in their ideal placement.
The Act notes that if the child sought to be adopted is ten years or over, the appearance of the child may be required at the final adoption hearing. An exception may be made for good cause, and the child’s wishes concerning the adoption shall be given consideration if the child is of sufficient mental capacity to form an intelligent preference regarding the adoption. N.J.S.A. 9:3-49. Furthermore, the Act has provided for several checks and procedures when an adoption occurs out of New Jersey or when done privately.
Who Can Adopt a Child in New Jersey?
Anyone seeking to adopt a child in New Jersey must be 18 years old and at least 10 years older than the child to be adopted. Married couples can adopt jointly, and married persons living separately from their spouses can adopt as well. A child’s brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, birth father, or step-parent may also adopt a child.
>As a state with an adoption-friendly reputation, New Jersey permits single parent adoptions. Although you may adopt while unmarried, this does not preclude obstacles. Adoption agencies typically give preferential treatment to married couples seeking to adopt. In some cases, birth parents may be reluctant or unwilling to work with single parents in a private adoption. New Jersey laws do not give single parents the authority to compel an agency or birth parent to provide a child for adoption.
Adoption Expenses Adoptive Families May Cover
The state of New Jersey regulates the expenses adoptive parents can contribute during adoption. Adoptive parents may cover the costs of the following services:
- Medical, hospital, counseling services for the birth mother and baby
- Living expenses such as food,clothing, and shelter for the birth mother during the pregnancy
- A foreign agency or attorney who can represent a child in their country of origin in an international adoption
Payments for birth parent expenses may not extend past four weeks after the baby’s birth or after the termination of the pregnancy. Adoptive parents must file a detailed report including all expenses and anything of value provided to anyone in connection with the adoption, as well as the names and addresses of anyone who received these payments and things of value.
Other Options for Expanding Your Family
Surrogacy is one of the more recent developments in this area of family law. It is typically utilized in scenarios where individuals may be unable to carry a child to term, but wish to have a child biologically related to them. During these agreements, at the time of birth, the carrier voluntarily terminates their parental rights to the child and the non-carrier parents adopt the child.
In 1988, the New Jersey Supreme Court looked into the legitimacy of these agreements in the case Matter of Baby M, 109 NJ 396 (1988), and determined that these contracts are generally unenforceable. However, the Court noted that where there is no compensation between the parties and the carrier is not the contributor of the egg, the contract may be legally binding. Since 1988, the legislature has made numerous attempts to regulate surrogacy agreements. In more recent years, legislative attempts have been vetoed. It is likely to be a continued topic of discourse until legislation is passed enacting statutory regulations.
New Jersey Adoption Lawyers
Bringing a child into your home through either adoption or surrogacy can be an exciting time for all parties involved. New Jersey adoption attorneys must stay on top of the changing developments in the case law and legislative actions. If you are interested in the process of adoption or seek more information about surrogacy, be sure to contact Sandelands Eyet LLP at (908) 470-1200 to get in touch with our legal team. Our Partners have been selected for the 2019 Super Lawyers Rising Stars List.