Archives for September 2018

International Adoptions in New Jersey

The New Jersey Resident’s Guide to International Adoption

In 2016, more than 5,000 children were adopted by American families from countries outside the United States. If you live in the Garden State, a New Jersey adoption attorney may be able to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about whether international adoption is the right path for you. Your adoption lawyer can also help you choose the right adoption agency and fill out all the necessary legal work that completing an adoption within the state of New Jersey entails.

Adoption Requirements in Your Child’s Country of Birth

Agencies in New Jersey do not have the authority to control adoption procedures in the country where your child was born. All they can do is match you with a child through a foreign agency. That agency must file the legal papers that are necessary to obtain custody of that child. If feasible, arrange for the adoption procedure to take place within that country, and obtain a passport and visa for the child so that he or she can enter the U.S. legally.

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is a treaty that provides some measure of protection for any dealings you may have with foreign adoption agencies. Try to work with a foreign agency that is accredited or otherwise authorized to provide adoption services in connection with the Hague Convention.

Adoption Form (REG-44)

Once your new son or daughter is in the U.S., a New Jersey adoption attorney can assist you with the remaining legal requirements. One of the most important of these involves filing adoption form (REG-44) with the New Jersey Vital Records Office. The form must be certified in a New Jersey family court.

New Jersey Adoption Requirements

In order for the adoption to be finalized in the state of New Jersey, at least one of the adoptive parents must be a U.S. citizen and a legal resident of New Jersey at the time when the adoption paperwork is filed. In addition to the adoption form referenced above, you will need to provide the Vital Records Office with the following:

  • Proof of the child’s immigration status: This can be done by either filing the child’s green card, providing a copy of the I-551 stamp on the child’s foreign passport or supplying documentation of the child’s U.S. citizenship.
  • Proof of your New Jersey residency: This can be done with a current utility bill with your address on it, a driver’s license or a voter registration card.
  • A certified copy of the foreign birth certificate and a certified English translation
  • A certified copy of the foreign adoption decree and a certified English translation
  • A check or money order in the amount of $2 payable to the Treasurer of the State of New Jersey
  • A completed copy of adoption form (REG-44)

Should You Readopt Your Child in the U.S.?

Courts in New Jersey will recognize the adoption of a child in a foreign court and issue a U.S. birth certificate upon request. There are still reasons why it may be wise to readopt your child in a U.S. jurisdiction, however. Many other states do require a readoption process before they will issue a birth certificate. Should you and your family move to a different state, this could complicate matters for you in the future, particularly if issues like divorce, custody disputes, child support or the distribution of survivors’ benefits arise. Your New Jersey adoption lawyer can give you the advice you need to make the decision that is right for you and your family here.

If you’re a resident of the Garden State who’s considering an international adoption, it’s important to work with an experienced family law attorney. Contact Cofsky & Zeidman in Haddonfield at (856) 429-5005 or in Woodbury at (856) 845-2555 to set up a consultation with a New Jersey adoption attorney who understands everything this complex process involves.

New Jersey Joins Other States In Regulating Gestational Carrier Arrangements for Family Formation

On May 30, 2018 Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey signed into law the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act. This new law will protect all parties involved in a gestational carrier arrangement, including the gestational carrier, the intended parents, and most importantly, any child resulting from such an arrangement. These agreements will now be enforceable and all parties will know each one’s obligations. The Act mirrors the N.J. Adoption Statute in that it permits payment of expenses related to the arrangement including reasonable living expenses as allowed under the Adoption Statute. It does not provide for separate compensation.

There are a number of mandatory requirements in order to avail oneself of the protections of the Act. The major ones include the requirement that a gestational carrier must be at least 21 years old, have had at least one child, and that the parties must receive counseling as to the effect of being involved in such an arrangement. All parties must be represented by separate attorneys.

If all requirements have been fulfilled, the intended parents can apply to the court for a pre-birth order naming them as the legal parents of any child resulting from the arrangement. It is extremely important since once the order is issued the intended parents will be responsible for that child regardless of any change in their relationship and regardless of any issues which may arise involving the child. This certainly is in everyone’s best interest. The other aspect of the Act cures an issue that was the basis of the case which I argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court almost six years ago. In that case a pre-birth order under the current case law had been requested for a husband and wife where the sperm of the husband was used to create an embryo with an egg from an anonymous donor. The embryo was transferred to a gestational carrier with the understanding of all parties that the wife would go on the birth certificate as the child’s mother. A split decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court resulted in the requirement that both of the intended parents must be genetically related to the child in order to have any type of pre-birth order issued. That meant that the intended mother would be required to file for a stepparent adoption.

It was as a result of this unfair treatment of infertile women that the legislature addressed this issue. The New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act was passed twice by the legislature since then, but vetoed twice by Governor Christie. It has now passed a third time and has been signed into law by Governor Murphy. The Act will now apply to children without a requirement that both intended parents be genetically related to the child. This is a great advancement for family formation in New Jersey, and simply regulates that which has already been occurring in this state. Several of my colleagues who are members of both the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys and the New Jersey Academy of Adoption Attorneys worked with the legislature in drafting the bill to correct this issue.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment with an NJ adoption lawyer or a PA adoption lawyer, contact the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman today. You can call our office in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150.

Access to Paid and Unpaid Leave As an Adopting Parent

Unpaid and Paid Leave When Adopting

Many new parents have access to paid leave through federal or state family and medical leave benefits or benefits provided to them as part of their employment contracts or packages. More than 91 percent of all the U.S. employers that are obligated or opt-in to provide paid leave for new parents indicate that it has had a positive effect on morale and turnover as well as no negative effect on employee absenteeism. Nevertheless, many adoptive parents-to-be have concerns with how they fit in.

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is a labor law that obligates employers of a certain size to provide workers leave for family-related reasons and to guarantee that their jobs will still be available when they return. Such leave is unpaid by default. Employees can access benefits, such as accrued sick time. States are also allowed to add paid requirements via their own family and medical leave benefits, which cannot contradict but add to the federal FMLA. Those on family leave may also have access to other federal and state benefits, and many employers provide additional benefits as part of their employment packages. Note that family leave covers not only pregnancies but adoptions as well, and without caveats.

Note that state family and medical leave benefits vary from one state to the next. Pennsylvania does not have a state FMLA. New Jersey does and even permits up to 12 months of paid leave for parents who choose to adopt.

Being Up Front With Your Employer

After you have consulted with a PA adoption lawyer and decided to adopt, it is generally advised that you inform your employer. You don’t want them to feel blindsided down the line. How you approach this situation likely depends on the size of the company for which you work, and you should adhere to the advice and any legal representation that you have secured. With small businesses, it is generally best to let the owner know, and with corporations, you generally want to inform your direct boss as well as the HR department depending on the rules and regulations.

What to Do When a Company Denies Leave

It is generally advised that you discuss applying for family leave with a PA adoption lawyer in advance of informing your employer and officially requesting leave. The advice an attorney provides you can be integral to a successful request. In the event of a denial, your recourse depends on it. If an employer is within its rights to deny the leave, then you may have no recourse. Some companies provide an appeal process. If an appeal fails or is not an option, then a lawyer can assist you with escalating the complaint, such as going to the Department of Labor.

When Seeking Employment

The FMLA generally provides less protection to you as a new employee who has been employed for less than 12 months. You may still be entitled to leave but have less access to benefits. You should be up front with an employer. By law, your choosing to adopt cannot be a reason not to hire you. If you have the option to wait a year, it may be in your best interest to do so and then broach the topic of the adoption with your employer. However, if the process is already underway and you became unemployed or this is a dream position for you, then it behooves you to be honest with your employer concerning your adoption plan.

Here as Your Advocate

If you want to adopt a child or already have and are facing subsequent challenges, the law firm of Cofsky & Zeidman is here to assist you. Our focus is on adoptions in PA, and we have helped many clients navigate the process. You can contact us online or call us at your earliest convenience. You can reach our office in Philadelphia at (215) 563-2150.