Archives for August 2018

Adoptees’ Rights to View Their Original NJ Birth Records

Adopted people in New Jersey might want to learn about their birth families but may be unsure of how they can access the information they need. State law allows them to access their original birth certificates.

How New Jersey Adoptees Can Learn About Their Birth Parents

New Jersey adoptees may wonder about their birth families and potential blood relatives. They may be curious about their family histories, ancestry and genetic medical records, and finding their birth family can help answer a lot of questions. A state law that went into effect in 2017 allows adoptees to request their original birth certificates.

New Jersey Laws on Adoptees’ Birth Records

In New Jersey, state laws give adoptees rights to access some types of information about their birth records and biological parents. In the past, these requests were not always possible or easy. The state government enacted laws that sealed the original birth certificates of children who were adopted on November 19, 1940, or any time thereafter. In order to access their birth records, adoptees had to apply for a court order that may or may not have been granted. This meant that many adoptees were left with unanswered questions about their origins and ancestry.

Changes to the Law

In 2014, the vital records law was amended to allow now-adult adoptees to obtain non-certified copies of their original birth certificates. There are a few things that you should know about how you can access your original birth records under New Jersey adoption law. You can contact our NJ adoption attorney for more information about the process.

Who Can Obtain an Original Birth Certificate

There are several categories of people who are entitled, under New Jersey state law, to receive a copy of the Birthoriginal birth certificate of the adoptee. These are all people who are directly linked to the adoptee. Those who can access original birth certificates include:

  • The adult adoptee himself or herself
  • The adoptee’s direct descendants
  • The sibling or spouse of the adoptee
  • The adoptive parent, legal guardian or other representative of the adoptee
  • Any New Jersey state agency or federal government department for purposes related to their official conduct

While a number of individuals have a right to access formerly sealed birth records, this right does not belong to the public in general. There is no public access provided to adoptees’ original birth certificates.

Applying for a Birth Certificate Copy

If you fit into one of the named categories listed above, you can formally request from the state a copy of the original birth certificate of an adoptee. You can complete the request form from the state and mail it to the state Office of Vital Statistics and Registry (OVSR). Birth certificates must be requested via mail and cannot be obtained in person.

In addition to the form itself, applicants must also submit proof of their identity, proof of their relationship to the adoptee, any records of a name change and payment of the required fee.

Birth Parents’ Privacy Rights

After the 2014 changes were signed into law by then-Governor Chris Christie, birth parents were given until December 31, 2016, to submit any requests to redact information from the record. If the redaction request was not filed by that date, it was not accepted by the state.

New Jersey adoption laws allow birth parents to provide contact preferences to the state registrar. The parents can say whether they prefer direct contact, contact through an intermediary or no contact at this time, although these preferences do not create a binding obligation. In order to submit a contact preference, birth parents must also submit a Family History Information form that provides additional medical history as well as social and cultural information.

Birth parents who previously requested that their information be redacted prior to the 2016 deadline but have since changed their minds can contact the state to change their preferences.

Adoption can raise a number of questions for adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents navigating the emotional and legal frameworks of New Jersey adoption law. To set up an appointment with our NJ adoption attorney, reach out to the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman. Donald J. Cofsky has years of experience representing families in adoption matters. You can call our office in Haddonfield at (856) 429-5005 or in Woodbury at (856) 845-2555 to set up a consultation.

The Advantages of Open Adoption

The popularity of open adoption is a relatively recent phenomenon. There are many reasons why this option may be the right one for your family.

Why Open Adoption Could Be the Right Choice for You

It’s estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of all adoptions in the U.S. today are open adoptions. If you’re considering an open adoption in the Garden State, consulting with an experienced NJ adoption lawyer can be a useful first step.

What Is Open Adoption?

An open adoption is an adoption in which a biological parent maintains some sort of relationship with the family who adopted his or her biological child. The nature of that contact can vary. In some instances, the adoptive family may send the biological parent an occasional photo and an update while in other situations, the biological parent may be encouraged to visit and spend time with the child.

A closed adoption, on the other hand, is one in which the adoption records are sealed, and no identifying information is passed between adoptive and biological parents. Thirty states, however, have set up mutual consent registries allowing children who were adopted through a closed adoption procedure to seek information about their biological parents once they come of age so long as the biological parents agree.

The Birthright Act

In January of 2017, the Adoptees’ Birthright Act went into effect in New Jersey. This law unsealed the birth records of 300,000 individuals who were born in New Jersey and later adopted both within and outside the Garden State. The adoptees can petition to receive uncertified copies of their birth certificates, which will give them access to their birth name and to the time, date and place of their birth. Unless their biological parents specifically petitioned to redact the information before December 31, 2016, adoptees will also have access to the names of their birth parents. Birth mothers and fathers have leeway, however, over the degree of subsequent contact they wish to have with any child who was given up for adoption.

New Jersey Adoption Laws

New Jersey Statutes Title 9, Sections 3-37 describe the legal requirements for adopting a minor child in the Garden State. Title 2A, Section 22-1 stipulates the requirements for the adoption of an adult.

Any individual who is 18 years of age or older can adopt a child in New Jersey. While many adoptions are independent arrangements that are brokered directly between biological parents and adoptive parents, others are mediated through agencies.

There are two types of adoption agencies in New Jersey: public and private. Both are licensed by the state and subject to state regulation and scrutiny. Private adoption agencies are frequently affiliated with social service organizations and place children who have been brought to their attention by biological parents. Public adoption agencies, on the other hand, place children who through abandonment or abuse have become wards of the court.

What Are the Benefits of Open Adoption?

The prospect of an open adoption can be frightening to adoptive parents. Will their adopted child see them as parents, they may wonder? Will the biological parents ever be able to reassert a claim to the child? Nevertheless, there are many advantages to the open adoption model.

  • Medical and genetic information: Increasingly, medical science is discovering that many chronic health conditions have genetic components. When adoption records are sealed, it can be difficult to get access to medical information that could help determine the most effective treatment strategies for a sick child.
  • Self-esteem: Without reassurance from a biological parent, an adopted child can grow up believing that he or she was placed for adoption because of some horrible flaw. Such children can grow up with a sense of abandonment that can be very destructive to their self-esteem. Learning from a biological parent about the circumstances that led up to the adoption can go a long way toward bolstering a child’s self-confidence.
  • Less uncertainty: What people don’t know is often scarier than what people do know. Where there’s an open channel of communication between adoptive parents and biological parents, adoptive parents are less likely to question a birth mother’s underlying intentions.

For more information about the adoption process in New Jersey, contact our NJ adoption lawyer at Cofsky & Zeidman today. We can be reached in Haddonfield at (856) 429-5005 or in Woodbury at (856) 845-2555.