New Jersey Adoption
Afonso & Archie P.C. offers representation in all areas of adoption law and offers the following New Jersey adoption related information.
Adoption is a very serious and complicated legal proceeding which involves the termination of the legal parental rights of birth parents and the assumption of legal parental responsibilities by the adoptive parents.
Before you consider an adoption, or to engage in a fight to prevent it, call the adoption law offices of Afonso & Archie P.C. at (856) 786-7000.
New Jersey Adoption, Birth Mother Concerns
Sometimes, the birth mother, for whatever reasons, decides trying to raise the baby herself is not the best option. As a result, she may wish to begin the adoption process herself to ensure everything will be in place for her child as soon as it is born. The mother of the child can begin option counseling and adoption-specific counseling as soon as she finds out she is pregnant and he Consent forms required by New Jersey Statutes Title 9:3-41 (e) may be executed only after 72 hours after the child’s birth. The birth mother can also participate in picking out the adoptive parents, though this is not covered by any particular statute.
One of the biggest reasons for considering adoption is the expense associated with a child. As a result, New Jersey Statutes Title 9:3-39.1 (e) provides that certain expenses of the birth parent can be paid by the adoptive parents. Allowed expenses include (1) the birth of the child; (2) the placement for adoption of the child with the prospective parent; (3) Medical or hospital care received by the mother or the child during the mother’s pre- and post natal period; and (4) services related to the adoption or to the placement for adoption, including legal services, which were rendered or are to be rendered to or for the benefit of the prospective parent, either parent of the child or any other person or agency. Expenses not allowed by Title 9:3-39.1 (e) are expenses beyond 4 weeks after the termination of the pregnancy, by birth or otherwise.
New Jersey Adoption, Birth Mother Concerns
Title 9: 3-39.1 (a), (c), (d) mandates that only an approved agency or person may offer to place or materially assist in the placement of a child for adoption. The decision to place a child for adoption cannot be contingent upon payment of expenses, but payments made are non-refundable.
Pursuant to Title 9:3-48, in a non-agency adoption, all expenses and fees for the investigation and any counseling provided shall be the responsibility of the adopting parent. The costs of all proceedings shall be borne by the petitioner for the adoption, though presumably this can be shifted as described above if the process is begun by the birth parent.
New Jersey Adoption Consent Concerns
In New Jersey a minor may consent to place their child for adoption. Also, Title 9:3-41 indicates that the parent or guardian of the child, and any agency, which has obtained the authority to place the child for adoption must consent to an adoption. But, pursuant to Title 9:3-45, consent is not needed if the parent has executed a valid surrender, has had their parental rights terminated, has had the child made available for adoption, has failed to contact or support the child, has not acknowledged paternity, is a father whose whereabouts are unknown, or does not file written objections to an adoption within 20 days after notice given.
New Jersey Adoption, Giving Adoption Consent
Title 9:3-41 (e) indicates that consent may be executed only after 72 hours after the child’s birth. Any alleged father or legal father may sign only after 72 hours after the child’s birth. The denial of paternity by an alleged father, at any time including prior to the birth of the child, shall be deemed a surrender for purposes of allowing the child to be adopted.
Can the birth mother change her mind before signing the legal consents to the adoption?
Unequivocally, yes. However, this may expose the birth mother to civil liability for any expenses paid by the adoptive parents during the term of the pregnancy.
Can the birth mother change her mind after signing the legal consents to the adoption?
Not if the surrender was executed according to provisions of Title 9:3-41 (e). A surrender to an agency is valid, binding, and irrevocable, and constitutes a termination of parental rights. At the discretion of the courts, consent may be set aside when it is proven that an agency has engaged in an activity that is fraudulent, caused duress, or if they misrepresented themselves.
Can the birth mother communicate with the adoptive parents and child after the adoption?
That is really up to the parties involved. The New Jersey Statutes do not address the issue, so it is not specifically allowed or disallowed. However, it is important to remember that after adoption, the birth parents have no rights with regard to the child, including visitation. Once given up for adoption, the adoptive parents are the child’s parents for all legal purposes.
New Jersey Adoption, Anonymous Surrender
Another area of concern has been abandoned children. Many mothers are frightened and unsure of how to handle the adoption process or what to do with their newborn. As a result, New Jersey enacted Title 30: 4C-15.7, a Safe Haven Infant Protection Law, in 2000. The infant must be 30 days old or less, and may be relinquished by a parent or any person. The parent is not required to provide identifying or medical information. Relinquishment to a hospital emergency room or police department is an affirmative defense to prosecution for abandonment. The division is not required to attempt to reunify the child with the parents. The division will place the child into foster care or a pre-adoptive home as soon as possible. The birth mother can contact the division to reclaim custody, although after 21 days the division will move towards the goal of permanently terminating parental rights.
Disagreements Between Birth Parents Regarding Adoption
Pursuant to Title 9:17-40 the parent and child relationship extends equally to every child and to every parent regardless of the marital status of the parents. If one or both of the parents have not had their rights terminated voluntarily or involuntarily the child is not available for adoption.
New Jersey Adoption, Notifying the Father
Title 9:3-39.1 (c) requires that the birth father be notified of the plan to place a child for adoption unless the birth father has voluntarily or involuntarily surrendered his rights to the child. Written notice shall be given to the birth parent, except one who cannot be identified or located prior to the placement of the child for adoption. Provision of such notice shall be confirmed in a written document signed by the birth parent and adoptive parent in separate documents, which shall be filed with the court prior to the termination of parental rights.
Who Can be an Adoptive Parent and Who Selects Them?
Title 9:3-42 indicates that any person who is at least 18 years of age and 10 years older than the adoptee may adopt. Married persons must adopt jointly. Pursuant to Title 9:3-39.1 placement of a child for adoption may be done by the parent or guardian of the child, an approved agency, or an intermediary, if the adoptive parent has a home study through an approved agency.
What Information About the Birth Parents and the Child Must be Provided to the Adoptive Parents?
This is an often overlooked, but important consideration. It may be important for future medical or behavioral/psychological concerns to determine relevant hereditary or drug related issues that have contributed to that condition in order to determine the best treatment. Information regarding the child includes their development and medical history. Information about the birth parents includes their medical history, including hereditary conditions, drugs and medications taken during pregnancy, any known factor that may influence the current or future health of the adopted person.
Finding Competent Parents, New Jersey Adoption
Title 9:3-53.2 requires a Home Study to determine the suitability of the home, and a criminal background check and any history of child abuse to determine the suitability of the parents.
New Jersey Adoption, Placement Prior to Formal Adoption
It is a common practice in foster parent adoptions for the child to live with the adoptive parents prior to a formal court order terminating the birth parent’s rights and awarding those rights to the adoptive parents. The child must be in the adoptive home for at least 6 months while in a supervisory period with monthly or bi-monthly visits (depending on age of the child) from a licensed social worker who will write reports that will be filed with the court, along with the home study for the judge to review at the finalization hearing.
Can a Child Ever be Placed for Adoption Without the Consent of the Birth Parents?
Yes, if their parental rights are involuntarily terminated through a Termination of Parental Rights court proceeding. Consent is not required from a parent whose rights have already been terminated, a parent who has failed to perform regular and expected parental functions of care and support for the child for 6 months or more, an alleged father, who has denied paternity at any time including and prior to the birth of the child, and if the identity of the parent cannot be determined, or if the known parent refuses to identify the unknown parent and the court is unable to find out who that parent is, that parent’s consent to the adoption is waived.
What is the process for accessing adoption files, including identifying information?
In New Jersey there is a mutual registry that adoptive parents and birth parents can register on at the time of the child’s birth, and then continually update information. In private agency adoptions if the birth parents are not on the registry then the adoptee upon adulthood may contact the agency in which they were adopted. The adoptee at that time will receive from the agency all the non-identifying information that was provided to the adoptive parents at the time of the adoption. The private agency will also send an inquiry to the birth parents at the last known address to inquire if they are interested in contact.
This article is only for general informational purposes and cannot adequately prepare you for the intricacies of New Jersey adoption law.
Before considering an adoption, or if you are fighting an involuntary adoption, or in doubt about the law, whether with regard to the matters in this article or another issue, contact the adoption law offices of Afonso & Archie P.C. at (856) 786-7000.