What You Need to Know About Citizenship for International Adoptees

How to Handle Citizenship During an International Adoption

Each year, roughly 12,000 children are adopted from other nations into American families. International adoption has many excellent benefits, but it also comes with some pitfalls like complex naturalization rules. Understanding how citizenship works in international adoptions will help things go more smoothly for you and your family.

Adoption Does Not Always Guarantee Citizenship

Many people are under the impression that any child adopted by American parents will automatically become a citizen. Unfortunately, this is not true. There are many cases of adults who were adopted as children, obtained a Social Security number, and lived and worked in the U.S. for decades before learning they were not legally a citizen. Even if the U.S. government facilitated the adoption, it is possible that the adoptee was not granted citizenship due to an oversight.

For adopted children who were under the age of 18 before February 27, 2001, the Child Citizen Act of 2000 applies. This act allows all child adoptees to get citizenship as long as they meet certain requirements. However, the child or their family members still have to apply. Otherwise, citizenship is not granted to the child. Those who are too old to meet the cutoff also need to apply for citizenship, but things are a little trickier. The adoptees will need to go through the usual citizen application process instead of the streamlined version now available to younger adoptees.

Requirements to Get Citizenship for International Adoptees

For those young enough to qualify for the Child Citizen Act of 2000, obtaining citizenship in an international adoption is almost certain. The child simply needs to apply for citizenship and show that they satisfy these requirements before the age of 18:

• Have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen

• Have a complete and final adoption recognized by the child’s state of residence

• Have a parent or grandparent who has resided in the United States for at least five years, with two of these occurring after the age of 14

• Be legally admitted to the United States as an immigrant seeking lawful permanent residence

These requirements are often fulfilled as part of obtaining visas in the first place. For example, a child who gets an IR-4 or IH-4 visa will have met these requirements automatically. In these cases, your New Jersey adoption attorney will usually submit the citizenship application at the same time as the visa request. Often, the child’s citizenship is then finalized alongside their adoption.

If a person is not young enough to qualify for the Child Citizen Act of 2000, things are a little trickier. In some cases, an attorney may be able to argue that the adoptee qualifies for an exemption and fast-tracked citizenship. However, most adoptees will need to follow the standard U.S. naturalization process. This involves:

• Passing tests to prove knowledge in the English language, U.S. history, and U.S. government

• Establishing residency in their chosen state

• Holding a green card for a certain amount of time

• Proving an upstanding moral character

How to Get Citizenship When Adopting Internationally

The international adoption process can seem complicated, but fortunately, you get a lot of help. If you are working with an agency, they will typically guide you through visa and citizenship applications. It is often fairly simple to handle yourself. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is happy to answer your questions and tell you what you need to do to seek citizenship.

When handling international adoption citizenship, it is a good idea to have an experienced New Jersey adoption attorney on your side. They can explain all the paperwork and rules in simple, easy-to-understand language. Your adoption attorney will help ensure that you have all the right documentation, and they will assist you with filing everything at the appropriate time.

At Cofsky & Zeidman, we are happy to help families navigate the complexities of adopting internationally and applying for citizenship. Our firm assists with a variety of international, domestic, private, agency, and stepparent adoptions. Call (856) 429-5005 in Haddonfield or (856) 845-2555 in Woodbury to schedule a consultation to learn more.

How to Inform Your Child That They Were Adopted

Talking to Your Child About Their Adoption

In the United States, 2.5% of all children are adopted. If you’ve welcomed an adopted child into your home, you probably spend time thinking about how to break the news. This conversation is not difficult, but it does need to be handled with compassion and respect.

Understand the Adoption Arrangement

When you tell your child that they were adopted, it will have a large impact on the way that they view your relationship. Because of this, you should have a clear understanding of your child’s adoption arrangement, so you can give them an accurate picture of what’s going on.

Some children are adopted by immediate relatives. In these situations, a child will probably want to know what their actual relationship is to their new caretakers. Some guardians take up the mantle of parents while others prefer to continue thinking of themselves as grandparents, aunts and uncles.

If the biological family is not related to the adopting family, make sure to double-check any privacy clauses on the adoption paperwork before starting this conversation. It’s not good for a child’s psyche to let them think that they can contact their birth parents if this is simply not the case. You can always ask your local New Jersey adoption attorney to review your paperwork before you take any further steps.

Choose the Right Moment for Your Child

The adoption conversation is too important and identity-forming to simply drop on a child during a casual moment. Instead, you should choose when to have this conversation based on the circumstances of the adoption and the child’s emotional and developmental needs.

In general, children should be told that they are adopted before they reach adolescence. Waiting to have this conversation with a teenager can greatly damage their self-identity. Waiting also runs the risk of your child finding out before you’re ready to tell them, which may damage their trust in you as a parent.

Children who are adopted at a younger age can usually wait to hear that they are adopted until they are around six to eight years old. Children who were adopted at the age of two or older will need to be told about the adoption at a much earlier age as this will prevent them from becoming confused about their conflicting sets of memories.

One of the best ways to prevent this conversation from becoming a point of tension is to tell your child early and make the adoption a normal part of your family narrative. Instead of treating adoption like a secret, help your child understand that this is a normal and healthy way to start a family.

Stick to the Important Points

When first talking to your child about their adoption, you may be tempted to tell them the entire story from your perspective. After all, the day your child entered your life was a big deal, and you probably want them to share in your joy and excitement. However, you need to remember that children aren’t able to properly process adult information. The more that you tell them, the more confused they will be.

The contents of this conversation should probably include the basic details of the arrangement, the date of their adoption day and any pertinent details that will add clarity without overcomplicating your explanation. As your child gets older, they will become more interested in getting the full details at a pace with which they are comfortable.

As you approach the situation, remember that your child may have traumatic memories centered around their adoption. You don’t need to pry about this kind of experience, but you should definitely be on the lookout for signs of shock or depression. Most children will be able to process the news easily if they have a supportive parental figure present to offer them emotional guidance.

Be Prepared to Answer Questions

Even if they are still young, you should be ready to let your child take control of this important conversation. They will ask you questions and tell you how they feel about the news. If you pay attention, you should have no problem providing your child with the emotional support they need.

An adopted child is a beloved member of your family who should feel like they can be proud of their past. After you’ve laid down the facts, be prepared to comfort your child, and reassure them that they belong with you.

If you have any questions about your adoption arrangement or need help starting this conversation, don’t hesitate to contact a New Jersey adoption attorney at (856) 429-5005. At Cofsky & Zeidman, we are happy to answer your questions and get you started on the next step of building your family.

What Do Grandparents Have to Do to Adopt in NJ?

Understanding the Steps of Grandparent Adoption in NJ

In the U.S., over 2.4 million grandparents are currently raising their grandchildren. For many families, formally adopting grandchildren can be a smart move that gives grandparents all the legal rights of a parent. If you’re interested in adopting a grandchild, you need to be prepared to follow these steps.

Terminating Parental Rights

In New Jersey, a child can only have two legal parents at most. This means grandparents cannot adopt until the biological parents’ rights have been terminated. There are several ways to go about this. The simplest way is having the biological parent agree to relinquish their rights. If they agree to do this, they just need to fill out the appropriate forms and have a discussion with the Department of Children and Families. The biological parents have the option of naming someone as the prospective adoptive parent when they surrender their rights. If your children are willing to do this, things are quite simple.

It gets a bit more complicated if your child isn’t willing to sign over your grandchildren to you. In these cases, you will need to pursue an involuntary termination of parental rights. This typically involves proving in court that the biological parent has abandoned or abused the child. Some reasons the court may terminate parental rights include:

• Causing severe physical harm to the child
• Allowing others to harm the child
• Using excessive physical punishment
• Failing to provide basic care
• Emotionally harming the child
• Abandoning the child

Welcoming Your Grandchild to Your Home

In many cases of grandparent adoption in NJ, the grandchild is already living with the grandparent by the time they decide to seek adoption. However, if your grandchild isn’t already living with you, it’s a good idea to take steps toward moving them in. After the parent is deemed unfit and the child is removed from their custody, the Department of Children and Families typically prioritizes family members.

If you have never met your grandchild or have had former run-ins with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), you may need to get a home study done and register as a foster parent. However, in cases where the grandparents already know the child and are part of their life, they may be allowed to move in immediately. The important thing at this step is to talk with DCP&P and a New Jersey adoption lawyer to find out what you need to do. They can help you fill out relevant paperwork and formalize your intent to adopt. It’s extremely important that you go about the process the right and legal way.

Finalizing the Adoption

There are just a few steps left to take to finalize your grandparent adoption in New Jersey. DCP&P will need to supervise you and your grandchild for six months, and then they can give you formal consent for adoption. Once you achieve this consent, your New Jersey adoption lawyer can then file a petition with the court.

The court will receive your petition to adopt and set a hearing date. At this hearing, the caseworker will give the judge details about your case. Typically, the final adoption hearing is merely a formality. If you’ve met all the qualifications beforehand, the judge will approve your petition to adopt. From this point on, you are your grandchild’s legal parent with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities of parenthood.

We Can Help

If you or your loved ones are going through the grandparent adoption process, it’s important to have experienced legal representation who can help you figure out how to adopt grandkids. Though most grandparent adoptions are fairly straightforward, there are still quite a few legal documents and proceedings to handle. Cofsky & Zeidman can guide you through the legal process and assist with sensitive family matters. We’re happy to help people throughout Haddonfield or Woodbury in New Jersey. Call (856) 429-5005 or (856) 845-2555 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about grandparent adoption.

Private or Agency Adoption: What’s Best During the Pandemic?

Valuable Adoption Advice to Consider During the Pandemic

With any major life-changing process, there are many steps and options to consider, and adoption is no different. Adoption should be thoroughly undertaken and heavily evaluated by all parties to make sure that matters are handled ethically and professionally. If you or someone you know is a biological or an adoptive parent who wants to find his or her ideal child, keep reading to find out more information so that safe decisions can be made during the pandemic.

What’s the Difference Between Agency and Independent Adoption?

The difference between an agency and an independent adoption is, oftentimes, very obvious. An agency adoption involves more parties. The adoptive and birth parents are introduced by an agency that usually works with the state and other levels of the government. Agency adoptions usually have fees and costs associated with the adoption process. This could consist of fees for classes, certifications, background checks and other methods of approval.

Independent or private adoptions usually consist of participation between two direct parties. The birth parents and the adoptive parents are more privately involved with each other. They may invest in an adoption attorney to address issues that could take place with items like adoption tax credits and more.

An independent adoption could also happen internationally. These adoptions usually cost a fee. These transactions are more likely to result in some form of financial loss due to the absence of an adoption attorney who could have properly assessed and addressed the expenses and conditional acceptance.

Alternatives That May Be Available During the Pandemic

The pandemic may cause delays in the adoption process for various reasons. Governmental departments are facing unexpected illness rates that have caused them to decrease their functionality and assistance towards the public.

Parents from both ends may choose different routes to reach their goal of adding to their family. For example, potential adoptive parents may choose to become foster parents for a child who is not fully classified as a qualified candidate for adoption. This may be due to lingering parental rights that are still granted to the birth parents.

Tax Credits and Financial Considerations

Some adoptive parents may be experiencing delays in acquiring proper documentation for their children. This may raise concerns for adoption tax credits and qualifications pertaining to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children could affect the amount of money that is saved during the process. This is why both parties should consult with a New Jersey adoption lawyer who has experience with the process. A professional’s insight could help them apply for proper adoption insurance that underwriters approve of and more.

New Jersey’s Adoption Laws

The State of New Jersey has particular laws that have been created to enhance the understanding and functionality of the process. It also gives all the involved parties rights that could help them maintain their credibility and attain factual evidence for verification purposes.

Related Services That Can Be Addressed

There are other services that adoption attorneys can provide clients with that incorporate similar laws, such as:

  • Assisted reproduction. New areas of law are emerging from practices like in-vitro fertilization and anonymous egg donors. It is critical that a lawyer is available to help individuals seeking legal stability with their adoptions.
  • Stepparent adoptions. Stepparents seeking involuntary termination assistance could contact an adoption lawyer. A noncustodial parent’s instability would need to be proved. This could allow the stepparent and custodial parent to adopt the child.

An Adoption Attorney’s Help

Our New Jersey adoption lawyer could provide you with the support that is needed to begin the adoption process during this pandemic with confidence that you will be welcoming a new member into your family. Studies have also shown that birth parents who consult with a New Jersey adoption lawyer are less likely to make unexpected changes throughout the process. Contact Cofsky & Zeidman of Haddonfield, New Jersey, at 856-429-5005.

Bringing Your Adopted Child Home During the COVID Crisis

Bringing Your Adopted Child Home During the Pandemic

Adopting a child during the era of COVID-19 presents many unique challenges. While some of the larger logistical issues like flying to meet a child have become nearly impossible, relatively little time is given to the realities of life once your child comes home. If you’re adopting during these trying times (New Jersey has had over 233,000 cases as of late October), it’s necessary to consider how you’ll safely introduce your child to a new life.

Celebrate at Home

Though it’s natural to want to celebrate bringing a new child into your family, it’s important to remember that social distancing guidelines must still be followed. Celebrations should be small and kept at home. However, this doesn’t mean you need to lower the excitement of the day.

Your child deserves to know how glad you are that he or she is now part of the family. You don’t have to focus on the fact that you’re missing out on doing something bigger. Instead, focus on what you’re able to do now. Put your time and effort into making sure that this celebration is something that makes your child feel like he or she is being welcomed into your home.

Connect at a Distance

One of the most important steps in bringing your adopted child into the fold is introducing him or her to the most important people in your life. Unfortunately, COVID-19 will preclude the possibility of getting them all together at once. Parents are now faced with the issue of trying to introduce children to friends and family members remotely, a process that can feel both frustrating and overwhelming to children who are still attempting to get their bearings in a new environment.

You can and should introduce your children to those who are important to you. Group calls can be a good way to start, but make sure that they’re not too much for your child. You may want to spend time introducing him or her to others more slowly, but don’t expect the child to spend hours on the phone talking to new people. Sometimes, just allowing your child to see a family member who would love to visit but is otherwise unable to do so is enough to help your child feel a little more connected.

Share Your History

This can be a fantastic time to start sharing your family’s history with your child. Since the usual options of going out and bonding might not be possible, you can spend the days together talking about all the things that your child might not yet know. You can, for example, let your child know what your journey was like toward adoption or talk about your favorite things to do when you were his or her age. While quarantine and isolation may not be a preferred way to spend time, it’s a good chance for you to let your child learn about your life.

This is also an ideal time for your child to share his or her history with you. While you may have learned the basics through working with an agency or your New Jersey adoption attorney, there are some things that you can only learn from your child. Your COVID-era adoption might require you to spend less time enjoying new experiences. However, you’ll have ample opportunities to learn more about who your child is.

Start Building New Foundations

Finally, try to look at this time as an opportunity to start building new foundations with your child. Get new meals delivered, watch movies or do crafts. Find time to spend together doing those activities that neither of you has ever done before, even if they must be done in your own home. You may not spend as much time exploring the surrounding area as you might have done before the pandemic, but you can still create fantastic memories with each other.

Adoption may seem more difficult during this era, but it is still an incredibly life-changing experience. If you are ready to adopt despite the difficulties involved with the pandemic, your next step should be to contact a New Jersey adoption attorney. When you’re ready to take your next step, contact the firm of Cofsky & Zeidman. Call (856)429-5005 to reach the main office in Haddonfield, NJ, or (856)845-2555 to reach our office in Woodbury, NJ.

COVID-19 Job Loss and Adoption

Job Loss, COVID-19, and the Adoption Process

Millions of jobs have been lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, derailing the lives of many and pressing pause on the important life plans of even more. Many pre-adoptive parents have been laid off, some of whom were relatively far along in the adoption process. If you’ve been laid off due to COVID-19, you must understand how your change in circumstances could impact your adoption.

Impacting Household Income

One of the primary ways that COVID-related job loss can impact your adoption is by reducing your annual household income. The good news for most pre-adoptive parents is that while income is a factor, the thresholds set by most agencies are relatively low. The agencies aren’t looking for only the incredibly wealthy but rather for those people who have enough money to pay their bills and to take care of the children that they choose to adopt. As such, you may experience less of an impact from your job loss than you might fear.

With that said, potential adoptive parents may be required to report their change in income to the adoption agency. If the income change is enough that you are no longer able to pay for your costs of living, you might find it difficult to continue with your adoption. In most cases, though, adoption agencies tend to look at your overall ability to pay rather than the difference between what you originally made and what you make now. Households with more than one income tend to be mostly unaffected by a job loss, although those with significant debts may still find themselves dealing with adoption problems.

Household Changes

Losing your job during COVID-19 doesn’t just impact your income—it can also impact your housing situation. If you have to move because of a drop in income, you may find that certain parts of the adoption process are impacted. While adopting a child during COVID-19 is hard enough on its own, having to go back and conduct basic things like home inspections can make the process seem significantly harder. This is, however, an unfortunate necessity if you move.

The good news is that the lost job won’t have much of an impact on your adoption on this front if you are still able to move into a space that is suitable for your child. It’s vital to remember that caseworkers aren’t looking to see that you are living in a mansion. They just want to see that you are living in a safe and suitable place that will help your child develop properly as he or she ages. With that said, any major changes in your status should be discussed with your New Jersey adoption attorney so that you can prepare for any questions that the adoption agency might have.

Causing Processing Delays

At the very least, there is a chance that losing your job is going to impact the speed at which your paperwork goes through. Any changes to your status may cause the adoption agency with which you work to reassess your adoption process, though the good news is that you won’t necessarily find yourself having to start all over just because you’ve found yourself without a job.

Processing delays do, however, play a role in how your adoption plays out. Adopting a child usually requires going through several potential steps, and each step does require completing the step before. If your processing gets held up, you might find it more difficult to move forward with your next step. If you were let go from your job during COVID, you might find that you have to take a few steps back from your current position in the adoption process so that your paperwork can be adjusted.

Losing your job can be difficult no matter the circumstances, and doing so while going through the adoption process is often even worse. If you are currently a pre-adoptive parent who is struggling with how job loss will impact your adoption plans, you don’t have to fight alone. Make sure to contact the office of Cofsky & Zeidman in Haddonfield or Woodbury, New Jersey, by phone at (856) 429-5005 or (856) 845-2555 or through the firm’s contact page to get the help you need from a New Jersey adoption attorney today.

COVID-19 and the Adoption Home Inspection Process

COVID-19 and Pre-Adoptive Home Inspections

When pre-adoptive parents first look into adopting a child, they’ll have to prove their fitness through a home study; these home studies have typically taken about 90 days to complete in the past, but they can take longer if they are disrupted. COVID-19 has proven especially adept at disrupting such routines, and the impacts on home studies aren’t limited to timing. Below are just a few ways COVID-19 has impacted home inspections for prospective adoptive families.

A Larger Caseload

One of the more pressing problems during COVID-19 has been a lack of available caseworkers. Whether individuals are quarantined, stuck in areas that are locked down, or simply at home with children who are engaging in distance learning, there are fewer caseworkers available to conduct home visits than in normal situations. As such, adoptive parents now find themselves waiting longer to get on the docket for visits with the usual wait times conceivably being several times longer than those in the past.

This may not seem like a huge COVID adoption change, but it does impact the timeline of adoption for many who are waiting to become parents. When adoption home inspections are slowed down, virtually everything else in the adoption process follows suit. When getting on the calendar takes more time, potential parents will find themselves stuck in a holding pattern.

Quicker Inspections

For good or for ill, the process of adoption home inspections has gotten quicker once caseworkers are able to get to the homes of prospective parents. Home inspections have never been particularly lengthy, of course, but they’ve generally been followed up by several questions and often even meetings with caseworkers. Today, though, most of those visits are being conducted as quickly as possible.

It’s wise to remember that those who feel like their adoption home inspections were carried out too quickly or inappropriately may need to contact a New Jersey adoption lawyer to challenge the decisions made and to get their applications back on track. Quick inspections might seem more efficient, but the decisions that spring from them aren’t always guaranteed to be as accurate as most would like.

Using Technology

Many adoption home inspections now use new technology to help speed along the pre-adoption home inspection process. Many agencies are beginning to use remote technology to get images of homes, ranging from teleconferencing software to pictures taken on smartphones. While both of these technologies certainly have their issues, they do allow agencies to gather data without having to potentially expose their agents to COVID-19. For many, this kind of technological innovation both removes some of the humanity from the adoption process and puts more power back in the hands of parents.

Remember, the remote sessions can often be conducted without a caseworker in the home. This means that not only do parents get to guide the camera, but they can also answer questions without having to get flustered by the stranger who might be in the room. While conducting these inspections remotely can be a double-edged sword, it is one that often cuts in the favor of the pre-adoptive parents.

Slower Processing

Finally, the adoption process is starting to run into the same kind of issue encountered in businesses and agencies across the world. Adoption home inspections are taking longer to process both because of the aforementioned lack of available caseworkers and because of many agencies bringing on fewer workers to adhere to social distancing regulations.

Slower processing of these inspections will naturally impact the timetable for any other adoption paperwork. Fortunately, many agencies do allow prospective parents to continue moving on with the other paperwork while the home inspection is being approved. Though not quite as problematic in the slowdown of actually assigning the home inspections, it should still be noted that virtually no adoptions can proceed until the home of the prospective parents has been approved via a home inspection.

You must understand how the process of getting your home inspected has changed because of COVID-19 and how it might impact your timeline for adoption. Though there’s little that you can do to speed things along, staying on top of your communications and making your home available can help. If you are struggling with the adoption process or you simply need representation to help you through it, make sure to contact a New Jersey adoption lawyer with the law firm of Cofsky & Zeidman in Haddonfield or Woodbury, New Jersey, either by phone at (856) 429-5005 or (856) 845-2555 or through the contact page.

Keeping Adopted Kids Safe During the Pandemic

Safe at Home: Keeping Adopted Children Safe During the Pandemic

There have been over 6 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States, causing untold hardships for millions around the country. If you’re the parent of an adopted child, you know that the damage done by the illness isn’t confined to those who get sick. If you’re concerned about your child’s well-being, you’ll want to consider taking a few necessary steps to keep your adopted child safe from a COVID outbreak.

Discuss the Illness

The best place to start is always with honesty. Take some time to discuss COVID-19 with your child so that he or she understands the severity of the illness. There is quite a bit of misinformation out there, so it’s up to you as a parent to make sure that your child is on the right path. If you’re not sure of what to believe, make sure to educate yourself well enough to talk to your child. Don’t pull from unreliable sources or your own guesses — if you don’t know what to tell your child, be honest with him or her, and do some of the research together.

Follow the Rules

Once you’ve established the reasons for acting safely, it’s time to start looking at the minimum actions that you can take to stay safe. Try to present the basic health care rules for the pandemic in the same way that your New Jersey adoption lawyer presented the rules you’d need to follow the complete your adoption — clearly, concisely, and with explanations for anything that could be easily misconstrued. COVID safety generally requires wearing a mask when out of the house and maintaining a social distance whenever possible, so make sure that your child knows to follow these rules whenever you are not around.

Take Sensible Precautions

Your next step is to look at the sensible precautions that you and your child can take that go above and beyond the mandated actions. It is generally a good idea to minimize the trips that you take outside of your home, for example, and to avoid those places where you think that social distancing won’t be possible. Make sure that you keep up to date with information about preventing transmission as it becomes available, and always err on the side of caution when deciding where it’s safe for your child to go.

Limit Socializing

One particularly tough part about keeping your child safe during the pandemic is the fact that you’ll have to limit his or her socialization. Try to find alternatives to meeting in person, such as video games and teleconferencing, and make sure to limit the number of people who are around whenever possible. If you choose to let your child socialize, make sure that it is with friends and family who follow the proper health care guidelines and who would clearly communicate with you if and when they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Social opportunities will be limited for the time being, but it’s always better to be safe than to be sorry.

Keep Yourself Safe

Finally, make sure that you set a good example by keeping yourself safe. If your child is not yet in school or is attending school at home, you will be one of the most likely vectors of transmission that your child encounters. As such, you’ll want to follow all of the rules that you have set forth for your child so that he or she can see a model of what actually needs to be done. Remember, your child is likely going to be watching your every move, so setting the right example is a must.

Know When to Reach Out for Help

Raising a child is never easy, and the pandemic certainly doesn’t help. As an adoptive parent, you’ve made the choice to bring a child into your life, so make sure that you’re doing all that you can to keep him or her safe. If you find yourself wondering whether you have any special responsibilities because of the nature of your relationship with your child or the legal proceedings that you’ve undergone, make sure to reach out to our New Jersey adoption lawyer at Cofsy & Zeidman in Haddonfield, NJ, to get the help you and your child deserve.

COVID-19 Pandemic Update: Embryo Donation

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Affected Embryo Donation

Stimulated in vitro fertilization can lead to as many as 30 eggs produced by some women. Some patients opt to donate these embryos to other women hoping to get pregnant; this allows for about 2,000 embryo adoptions annually — a number that continues to trend up. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected practically every aspect of our lives, and New Jersey adoption attorneys note that current circumstances may have added new wrinkles to the assisted reproduction process as well.

What Is Embryo Donation?

IVF can result in more embryos than a patient requires. Those embryos can be cryopreserved for use at a later time, but there may be no plans to use them at all. In those scenarios, a patient can opt to donate them to other women as opposed to discarding them or contributing them to science. The average success rate of IVF involving donated embryos is 40%, which is slightly higher than standard IVF. People who are suitable candidates to adopt embryos include

• Couples who are both infertile

• Single women who are infertile

• Patients with genetic disorders

• Women who experience recurrent embryo loss

Are Embryos Screened for Disease?

Absolutely. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has established strict guidelines for tissue donation, and those rules encompass eggs, sperm and embryos. Since embryos are initially intended for private use, there can be cases where the FDA testing was not performed comprehensively or in the required time frame. It is legally required that the recipient be informed of this risk. This is in addition to the detailed medical histories that accompany all embryo donations. Although there is no evidence as of this writing that COVID-19 affects embryos, you also have the right to know whether the donated embryos were created prior to, during or after the pandemic.

Is It Permissible to Donate or Receive Embryos During the Pandemic?

Infertility is classified as a disease, which means that treatments are never deemed elective. It is therefore permissible to donate and receive embryos during the pandemic. Doctors will work with their patients on an individual basis to determine if it is recommended for them. While as many as 80% of fertility clinics in the U.S. ceased operations in April and May of 2020, the majority had reopened and welcomed back furloughed workers by mid-June. Most clinics are now moving forward with donations and IVF treatments.

Embryo Donation Is Often a Remote Process

Embryo donation was a remote process long before the pandemic, and this is a big reason why fertility clinics have adapted so quickly and efficiently. Donors and recipients often do not meet, and most agreements are finalized remotely between the clinics, matchmaking services and attorneys.

How Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Affecting Embryo Donation?

This is not to say the coronavirus has not created problems for the embryo donation process. Many clinics are operating with smaller staffs, which can result in longer wait periods when acquiring approvals, medical records and other documents. If a donor requires a physical exam or lab work, then the process will take longer since many doctors’ offices and labs are managing backlogs. Federal, state and local mandates can affect shipments and cycles, and as of this writing, there exists a backlog of embryo transfers due to the logistical challenges everyone is facing. People just entering the donation process can expect greater delays than those who were already involved in a process disrupted by the pandemic.

Local Representation for Donors and Surrogates

Are you considering embryo donation or embryo adoption? Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, would like to help. Our law firm is experienced in navigating both the donation and adoption process, and Donald Cofsky is a Charter Member of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys. Initial consultations are provided at no cost and without obligation, and we can assign you to our New Jersey adoption attorney who will work hard to make this process as smooth and rewarding as possible. Contact us online or call our office in Haddonfield, NJ, at (856) 429-5005; Woodbury, NJ, at (856) 845-2555; or Philadelphia, PA, at (215) 563-2150.

Is It Harder to Adopt Via a Surrogate During the Pandemic?

How Has the Pandemic Affected Surrogacy Arrangements?

Each year, about 750 children are born through surrogacy. The surrogate process can be a great way to expand a family, but things may be trickier during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has affected several different parts of the surrogate and adoption process.

Starting the Process May Be Slower

If you have not already started the New Jersey surrogate adoption process, you should expect it to take a little longer than usual. The New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Law requires that the surrogate must go through medical and psychological examinations before agreeing to carry a pregnancy. During the pandemic, many elective medical procedures have become unavailable. Doctors may be busy handling emergencies, or they could be spacing out patient appointments to reduce in-office crowding. This means that your desired surrogate will have to schedule her examination appointments months in advance. It is important to be patient and start the process as soon as possible.

Handling the Legal Complexities of Surrogacy May Take Longer

In New Jersey, surrogacy is divided into two categories: gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy. In gestational surrogacy, an embryo is implanted into a surrogate carrier who is not the biological mother of the child. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate carrier is artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm, so she is the biological mother. New Jersey only allows pre-birth agreements in cases of gestational surrogacy. For traditional surrogacy, the surrogate has no duty to surrender the child. Instead, the intended parents must go through typical adoption following the birth of the child.

In both of these cases, parents usually need to go to court. For New Jersey surrogate adoptions, you have to file a petition for adoption, go to preliminary hearings, and then potentially return for a final hearing. With the huge case backlog due to the pandemic, this means that parents going through traditional surrogacy may have to wait months to resolve the situation. For gestational surrogacy, the couple just needs to get a pre-birth order establishing parentage. This helpful document identifies the intended parents as the parent both before and after birth. You typically obtain this order in court, but it is possible to waive court appearances. With most New Jersey family courts so busy, they are encouraging families to seek waivers whenever possible. Typically, your New Jersey adoption lawyer can just file a bit of paperwork, so the COVID delay will be very brief.

You Might Not Be Present at the Birth

Often, surrogacy adoption agreements include discussions of what everyone expects to happen right after the birth. Prospective parents may be looking forward to cutting the cord, skin-to-skin time with the newborn, and other family bonding moments. However, this is not always possible with surrogacy during COVID. Depending on the hospital you go to, only the pregnant woman may be present in the delivery room, and newborns may be isolated for their own safety.

As your New Jersey adoption lawyer will explain, the health of the surrogate and the child is always a priority. If doctors deem it medically necessary for the carrier and child to be isolated for a certain amount of time, you need to respect this decision. Regardless of what your initial agreement was, it may be quite a few weeks before you can bring your baby home. This is understandably frustrating, but it is inevitable in some surrogacy cases. During this difficult time, try to focus on the positives. Despite the disruptions from the pandemic, it’s still possible to finalize your adoption and welcome your new family member eventually.

COVID-19 might be slowing down adoptions, but there is still hope for your family. Have more questions about how the pandemic will affect your adoption via surrogacy plans? The office of Cofsky & Zeidman is here to help New Jersey residents. We have offices in Haddonfield and Woodbury. As experienced New Jersey adoption lawyers, we can guide you through all the complexities of adopting during a pandemic. Our team is happy to provide remote consultations, so go ahead and call us now at 856-429-5005.