How Do You Go About Adopting an Extended Family Member?
In 2011, more than 1,000 children were placed in New Jersey with extended family members.
The Main Goal
The Department of Children and Families strives for the reunification of parents and children, but if this isn’t possible, the children will be designated as “legally free for adoption.” If a family member is available to adopt a child, the courts usually grant custody to this person over a nonfamily member. As a matter of fact, the most common type of adoption is that between a child and an extended family member.
Second Parent Adoption
One of the most common types of adoption is the “second parent” adoption. This is when a stepparent adopts a stepchild. In New Jersey, a stepparent may adopt a child if he or she is married to the biological parent. However, the parental rights of the noncustodial parent must have been severed.
This type of adoption is relatively straightforward. If the biological parent still has parental rights, the stepparent must obtain permission to adopt the child. This tends to be the most difficult type of permission to receive. In most cases, the stepparent acts as the child’s parent because the biological parent is not in the child’s life.
If the biological parent has parental rights, the stepparent may ask them to relinquish those rights voluntarily. This requires that the biological parent sever their parental rights by signing the designated form. Then the stepparent will be free to adopt the child after a background check and adoption hearing.
Parental rights can also be forcibly terminated, but this requires a court order.
Reasons a Biological Parent’s Parental Rights May Be Terminated
A biological parent’s parental rights may be terminated because he or she did not follow the recommendations of the Department of Child and Families’ Division of Child Protection and Permanency. The court may terminate a parent’s parental rights if it determines that this is in the best interests of the child. Finally, parental rights may be terminated after a biological parent is convicted of abusing, abandoning or inflicting cruel actions on the child.
If any of the above occur, the biological parent will not be able to gain custody of the child or be allowed to be a parent to the child again. Termination of rights also means that the custodial parent does not have to pay the other parent child support. The custodial parent also will not be required to reimburse the terminated parent for money that was spent on the children.
Grandparents may be foster parents to their grandchildren. The state retains custody of the children in this case, but the grandparents have physical custody of them. The grandparents have many rights, but the biological parents retain their parental rights in some cases.
Custody or Guardianship
Grandparents also adopt their grandchildren in large numbers, but adoption is different from obtaining custody or guardianship of the children. With custody or guardianship, the biological parents keep their parental rights.
Guardianship or custody gives grandparents the right to enroll their grandchildren in school and make decisions for them. Grandparents can also obtain medical consent forms or powers of attorney that give them the right to make medical decisions for their grandchildren.
Adoption by Grandparents
In most cases, adoptions between grandparents and their grandchildren are open adoptions. However, there may be reasons grandparents may want to keep the adoption closed so that the biological parents do not have contact with the children. This occurs when the biological parent loses custody due to addiction, neglect, abuse or some other traumatic experience.
If the biological parent is resistant to allowing an adoption to take place, there are actions that you can take to ensure that you can adopt your stepchild. It requires the assistance of a New Jersey adoption attorney.
In order to adopt an extended family member’s child, the first thing that you should do is meet with a New Jersey adoption attorney. Donald Cofsky has several years of experience in adoption law. Contact us at (856) 429-5005. We are connveniently located in Haddonfield.