All About the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption

How Can You Adopt a Child From a Treaty Country?

The Hague Adoption Convention allows American families to adopt children from other countries. The convention simultaneously protects children from trafficking, exploitation and other abuses. Families looking to adopt a child from a Hague country must meet certain criteria to ensure that the child will be safe in their new homes.

What Is The Hague Adoption Convention?

The Hague Convention is short for the “Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.” It was created in 1993 in the Netherlands as an international law to protect children during international adoption and is one of many laws by the Convention.

When prospective parents wish to adopt a child through intercountry adoption, they are required to meet certain criteria. The Hague Convention aims to match children with the best potential families.

What Are the Benefits of Adopting a Child from a Hague Country?

Certain countries are considered Hague-accredited. When a child is available for adoption from one of those countries, families in their birth country have first priority to offer them a home. However, if it’s impossible for these children to be adopted in their home countries, American families can adopt them as long as they meet certain criteria.

There are notable benefits of adopting a child from a Hague country. Adoption through The Hague Adoption Convention offers families more resources. There is a specific established process in place for adoption and decisions are made quickly so that families know whether they have the opportunity to adopt. The family is also provided with all medical and social information about the child they plan on adopting. They also get access to an international adoption doctor.

Children get to benefit by being adopted by loving families. Through Hague Convention adoption, children are also able to be protected against potential trafficking.

What Is the Criteria for Adopting a Child from a Hague Country?

Prospective parents wishing to adopt a child from a Hague country must meet strict requirements. A New Jersey adoption attorney can assist you with information to help the process along. The following requirements should be met:

• Prospective parents must be United States citizens who live in the U.S.
• Those adopting as a couple must both sign Form I-800A.
• Prospective parents who are unmarried must be at least 24 years old upon signing Form I-800A and 25 when filing Form I-800.

In addition to these basic requirements, you must also meet the criteria required from the country from which you wish to adopt. All countries have their own set of rules including the age of prospective parents, marital status of the parents, sexual orientation of the parents and age difference between the parents and child.

Parents are also required to take a 10-hour pre-adoption course for adopting a child from a Hague Convention country. This helps to educate parents on the child’s history and special needs. For example, some children have a history of trauma.

How Does the Adoption Process Work?

When you decide to go with intercountry adoption through a Hague country, there are three sets of laws to follow: United States federal law, state law and the laws of the child’s country of origin. Parents wishing to adopt should expect the process to take one to four years depending on the situation and country. However, the adoption process may take even longer in some circumstances. A New Jersey adoption attorney can help make the process as smooth as possible.

There are eligibility criteria for children from Hague countries being adopted. The following must be in place for adoption to be possible:

• The child is younger than 16 when Form I-800 is filed or under 18 and a sibling of a child younger than 16 who has been or will be adopted by the same parents.
• The child will be adopted by a married couple where both spouses are at least 25 years old and at least one spouse is a U.S. citizen who has resided in the U.S. and the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) has found that couple suitable to adopt.
• The Central Authority of the child’s home country has determined that the child is eligible for intercountry adoption and has proposed placement that was accepted but the child hasn’t yet been placed in custody.
• The child’s birth parent or parents or other legal guardian has given consent to the adoption and agreed to terminate their parental or guardianship rights.
• The child’s birth parents are considered incapable of caring for the child if they signed the consent form to give up the child for adoption.

If you live in New Jersey or Pennsylvania and are interested in adopting internationally through The Hague Convention, contact one of the New Jersey adoption attorneys at Cofsky & Zeidman by calling us (856) 429-5005 at your earliest convenience.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?

The Costs of Adoption: What to Expect

The cost of adoption varies depending on the type and the specifics of your situation. While it may be possible for a public adoption to cost less than $1,000, you can’t always rely on that figure. In some cases, the expenses associated with adopting a child might be in excess of $50,000 when all is said and done.

Adoption is often a costly and drawn-out process, but there’s a good reason for that. These hurdles are partly in place to make sure that the people who end up being approved are genuinely committed to the role of parenting these children in need.

Allow for More Costs Than You Expect

It’s likely that your emotions will be tried just about as much as your finances. No matter what, you should expect the process to take a significant amount of time.

It’s a good idea to set aside more funds than you think you’ll need and give yourself plenty of time. You don’t want this to be a stressful process for the child, your partner, or other family members – not to mention yourself.

There are different types of adoption, each one with its own costs and resultant price range. It’s helpful if you know what to expect from each and learn which one is right for your situation ahead of time. This will allow you to handle everything more smoothly, avoiding wasted time and money while ensuring the best possible outcome.

Help Is Out There

If you’re feeling overwhelmed already, it may help to remember that you don’t have to cover all the costs yourself. Adopting a child is a major endeavor, and trying to handle everything alone often turns into an exercise in futility.

Luckily, it’s easier than ever to reach out for help nowadays. You’d be surprised by all the places you can find it and how many people are willing to pitch in. Numerous parents have utilized online fundraisers to pay for the myriad adoption expenses. Grants and personal loans are also viable options.

Adopting Through Public Welfare

A public agency adoption is one route you can take if you’re working with a tight budget. You’ll start off as a foster parent when adopting through the public welfare system.

There’s a specific agency for each state that’s in charge of placing foster children with adoptive families. These agencies are responsible for distributing licenses, overseeing kids’ education, and providing support when it’s needed.

The benefit of adopting through foster care is that it saves a substantial amount of money when you compare it to other adoption options. You can usually cover all associated costs of adopting a child this way with $1,000 or less because foster adoptions come through the help of federal programs that provide assistance to foster families. These are programs meant to entice adoptive parents because, sadly, foster care kids have often already passed the “prime” age for adoption.

The foster care system is also full of kids who have had difficult experiences and likely suffered trauma because of them, or they may have a disability that requires special care. There will be more obstacles to overcome than most children face, and the adoptive parents will need to step up in every possible way to facilitate that.

If you think adopting a child through the foster care system is right for you, many helpful resources may be found through the Children’s Bureau, which is a federal agency. This is where you can find a trove of information on adoption-related topics and reliable assistance to guide you through the process. The Children’s Bureau also breaks things down for every state, so you’ll know you’re looking at the guidelines that are relevant to you.

Independent and Private Adoptions

Other options include private and independent adoption. With private, it’s up to the parents to find an attorney or work directly with the adoption agency that they choose. Either way, the process is similar. A home study, placement, counseling, training, and legal documentation are the steps that comprise this route to adoption.

But the price isn’t always consistent going directly through the adoption agency. It may be as low as $30,000 and as high as $60,000, leaving considerable room for uncertainty in the middle. For independent, on the other hand, you might want to retain a New Jersey adoption lawyer.

The obstacles between potential adoptive parents and children are there in part to make sure they’re in it for the long haul. It’s a way of verifying not just that they are fit to be parents – they also have to be the right fit for this particular child.

If you’re trying to figure out adoption and feel lost, you are not alone. Help is out there, so give us a call today at (856) 429-5005 for a New Jersey adoption lawyer or request a consultation with Donald Cofsky.

International Adoptions and the Hague Adoption Convention

How the Hague Adoption Convention Shapes Intercountry Adoptions

The United States welcomes more children through intercountry adoption each year than any other nation in the world. In fact, since 1999, more than 250,000 international adoptions have been finalized in the U.S. It can be a complicated process that requires representation of an attorney skilled in international adoptions, but the Hague Adoption Convention has formalized that process and gives the adopting parents peace of mind that the child is not exploited and has been protected.

Hague Adoption Convention

The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is an international agreement to formalize international adoptions and protect the children involved. This convention is often referred to as the Hague Adoption Convention for short and not just the Hague Convention as to differentiate it from the pre-War World I series of treaties that were the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. The U.S. signed the Hague Adoption Convention in 1994.

How the Hague Convention Protects Children

The Convention requires that all participating countries establish a Central Authority. The Department of State serves as the U.S. Central Authority. These centralized authorities are in place to vet prospective adoptions and ensure that the child has not been abducted, sold or trafficked. An authority also ensures that a child is eligible for international adoption according to local laws and that the necessary measures have been taken to find a home for the child in its country of origin.

U.S. Convention Process

Not all adoption agencies are eligible to provide services related to an intercountry adoption in the U.S. An agency must either be accredited or approved on the federal level. This ensures the adopting parents that they are dealing with an Accrediting Entity or what is known as an Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, Inc. or IAAME in the language of the convention. An Accrediting Entity is evaluated on an ongoing basis and is not in violation of any professional or ethical practices.

U.S. Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000

Adherence to the Hague Adoption Convention has been a complex and time-intensive endeavor for all participating countries. In the U.S., it was implemented through the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000. The IAA, for instance, implemented the rules and regulations for accrediting entities. It also requires the Department of State to verify that each intercountry adoption completed in the U.S. is in accordance with convention regulations and then issue a certificate from the Secretary of State.

Universal Accreditation Act of 2012

The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 expanded federal regulation in the U.S. It specifically extended the oversight and ongoing monitoring of approved and accredited adoption services within the U.S. It also extended all safeguards defined by the convention to nonparticipating countries. This means that U.S. adoption agencies must oversee all international adoptions as convention adoptions, even if the child is from a country that did not agree to the convention.

Post Adoption

Adoptions in general are often complex. Intercountry adoptions can be even more so. Parents adopting in New Jersey are encouraged to hire a New Jersey adoption lawyer to help them navigate the process. Even after you receive the child’s Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, there is still much to do. You must acquire U.S. citizenship for the child so that the child is not subject to deportation and will have access to all privileges with age, such college scholarships and the right to work and vote. Depending on the country of origin, you may also have post-adoption and post-placement reporting responsibilities.

Are You Considering an International Adoption?

If you are considering an international adoption and live in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, the Law Office of Cofsky & Zeidman, LLC, is here to help. New Jersey adoption lawyer Donald C. Cofsky has personally overseen more than 1,500 adoption cases since joining the bar in 1974. You can contact us online or reach our Haddonfield, NJ office at (856) 429-5005, our Woodbury, New Jersey office at (856) 845-2555 or our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania office at (215) 563-2150.

Adoption vs. Legal Guardianship: Which One Is Right for You?

How to Choose Between Adoption and Legal Guardianship

Each year, thousands of children end up with a primary caregiver who is not their biological parent. If you’re caring for a child who is not biologically yours, you have the choice of adopting them or seeking legal guardianship. To figure out whether legal guardianship or adoption will work better for your situation, you need to ask a few questions.

What Responsibilities Does Each Process Give You?

First of all, it can be helpful to consider what each process will mean for your daily life. Both adoptions and legal guardianships come with most of the same duties. You will need to ensure that the child is safe, healthy, happy, and well cared for. Both guardians and adoptive parents must provide a child with food, clothing, shelter, and age-appropriate care. Whether you are a guardian or adoptive parent, you will be able to make medical, financial, and educational decisions on the child’s behalf.

How Long Do You Want Your Responsibilities to Last?

A guardianship is usually a temporary situation. The guardian cares for the child while the parent can’t, but the guardianship is set up to end when the parent asks, after a certain amount of time, or when the child is 18. Though you might still have a parental relationship with the child once guardianship ends, you won’t automatically be considered the child’s family from a legal perspective. Meanwhile, once your New Jersey adoption attorney finalizes your adoption, you are the child’s parent for the rest of their life. This means that your care for your child can extend long past the age of 18. For example, if your adult child gets into an accident at college, their school would contact you as the child’s legal next of kin. To have the same level of involvement in an adult child’s life, a former guardian would need to fill out extra paperwork once the child turned 18.

Do You Want the Other Parents to Still Be Involved?

One of the main differences between guardianship and adoption is what happens to the child’s former parents. In an adoption, the court formally removes the previous parents’ rights and transfers them to you. Meanwhile, in a guardianship situation, the original parents still have their rights. Not only can they make decisions for the child, but they can potentially terminate the guardianship. All of this additional input can be great if you’re a grandparent caring for your grandchild while the parent is working overseas. However, if the biological parent doesn’t provide appropriate care to the child, you might want to seek adoption and ensure the previous parent cannot show up and disrupt the child’s life.

How Much Time Do You Have for Legal Matters?

Guardianships tend to be a much simpler process. You sign a few papers and are able to care for the child. Many guardians never have to go to court, and home studies aren’t usually required. Meanwhile, the adoption process tends to be lengthier. The simplest adoptions tend to be family adoptions where all parties consent, and even then, you usually have to fill out several documents and submit them for the court’s approval. If you adopt through the foster system or through a private adoption agency, things can take even longer. You may need to prepare your home for an inspection, petition the court to remove previous parents’ rights or take other steps to complete the process.

Ultimately, adoption tends to give you most of the same day-to-day responsibilities as a guardianship. However, adoption is more permanent and long-lasting. If you’re still not sure which process would work best for you, talk to a New Jersey adoption attorney. At Cofsky & Zeidman, we’re happy to go over your options and help you find the most effective solution for your family. To schedule a consultation at one of our convenient offices, contact us today. We can be reached by calling 856-429-5005 or by filling out and submitting our online form.

Adopting a Grandchild or Other Relative

Should You Adopt Your Grandchild or a Relative?

“Adoption” can be an intimidating word, and it may not be something that you foresaw in your future. However, your child or your child’s partner may not be in a position to care for your grandchild, forcing you to step in as a responsible caregiver.

Adopting a Grandchild or Relative

Adopting a grandchild can be a long and difficult road, but if your grandchild or relative’s future is at stake, it is a road worth taking. You may have temporary custody, or you may be a legal guardian. However, these roles may not be enough to protect the child’s well-being.

If your child is going through a difficult time and is unable to raise their child, the grandchild may be turned over to you temporarily for a number of reasons including substance abuse, economic hardship, mental issues, or incarceration. Sometimes, though, temporary care can turn into long-term care, especially if your child’s issues are never resolved.

When issues don’t resolve themselves or they become worse and you start to become concerned about your grandchild’s welfare, you may start taking on more parental responsibilities. Sometimes, returning children to their parental home may subject those children to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. There may be drugs involved, or there may be neglect that is ongoing. Other factors may have popped up.

For example, when things like education and health care enter the picture, you may need to make things more permanent and become a legal guardian or go a step further and consider adoption. If you aren’t sure what your options are, it may be a good idea to consult a professional who has deep knowledge of New Jersey family law statutes.

When you are a legal guardian, you will be able to make educational and health decisions for your grandchild. However, the parents still have legal rights. This may be a comfortable middle ground to stay in until your grandchild is an adult. If not, you may want to terminate the legal parental rights, especially if you feel that these rights are endangering the child.

A Relative Entering Foster Care

There may be relatives who have to give up their children to foster care because of difficult circumstances. In cases like this, the Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) in New Jersey will prefer to place the child with a relative — one who preferably knows the child and can minimize the trauma of leaving home. Being adopted by a relative may be in children’s best interest as it lets children keep ties with their birth parents. Plus, children who are adopted by relatives may not feel as cut off from the world that they knew. New Jersey law differs from other states when it comes to adopting a relative. A law firm in New Jersey may be able to help with your questions.

Factors to Consider

Making the decision to adopt a grandchild will alter the rest of your life until they turn 18 years old. There are other factors to consider, and a New Jersey adoption attorney may be able to discuss these factors in more detail. Providing love and comfort to a child in need is one of the most rewarding things that you can do, and it can be a rewarding way to spend a portion of your retirement.

However, if you have retired, you may be living on a fixed income and may not have the financial capability of raising a child. Children and their needs are expensive, and you will need to write out a rough budget of what you think you’ll need over the years. Another detail to consider is your age. You should be able to raise your adopted child until they reach the age of 18, so honestly considering your current and future health prognosis is crucial.

When you need a New Jersey adoption attorney who is familiar with family court and adoptions, contact Cofsky & Zeidman. You can call our main Haddonfield office at (856) 429-5005, or you can call our Woodbury office at (856) 845-2555.

What You Need to Know About Adoptions in New Jersey

How Does Adoption Work in New Jersey?

At the end of 2020, more than 117,000 children in the United States were waiting to be adopted. Many people express interest in adopting a child, but finding a New Jersey adoption lawyer, understanding the process and paying for the costs may overwhelm them to the point where they change their minds. If you’re considering growing your New Jersey family through this method, here’s what you need to know.

Choosing a Birth Mother

When a birth mother realizes that raising a child is not her best option, she may decide to work with an adoption agency in order to make sure that everything is set up for her child to go to the home of her choice after birth. The mother can start participating in counseling services related to adoption as soon as she has a confirmed pregnancy. Legal consent for the adoption can’t be signed by the birth mother until 72 hours after the child’s birth. The mother can choose to help select the adoptive parents, but New Jersey law doesn’t require her to do this.

Paying for the Birth Mother’s Expenses

Prenatal care and giving birth are major expenses for the birth mother. New Jersey Title 9:3-39.1 e stipulates which expenses the adoptive parents can pay. These expenses include hospital bills, prenatal and postnatal care, adoption services, legal services, and placement costs. The postnatal period extends to four weeks after the child’s birth.

Choosing Adoptive Parents

New Jersey laws state that only approved individuals or agencies can assist with adoption. The process can’t be contingent on payments. Any payments made aren’t refundable. If the adoption doesn’t go through an agency, the costs are the responsibility of the adoptive parent.

Consenting to Adoption

A birth mother can change her mind at any time before signing the consent for the adoption. She doesn’t have to provide a reason. However, no consent is needed if the birth mother’s parental rights were terminated, if she surrendered her child through a valid method, such as a safe haven post at a police station. Birth fathers have up to 20 days after the child’s birth to object to the adoption process. If the birth father’s whereabouts are unknown or his parental rights were terminated, the process can proceed without his consent.

Sharing Information

Once an adoption is finalized through the court, it’s up to all parties involved as to whether or not there is one-way or two-way communication. A birth mother may request that her information not be provided to the child or adoptive parents. Adoptive parents aren’t required to have any communication at all with the birth mother or father. At the signing of consent, the birth mother loses all of her parental rights permanently, and those rights are transferred to the adoptive parents. Many birth mothers choose to share essential medical information that adoptive parents would need in order to ensure that the child receives optimal health care. This includes details about drug or alcohol use during her pregnancy, familial or genetic disorders, and her medical history.

Who Can Adopt a Child in New Jersey?

Adults at least 18 years of age and at least 10 years older than the child being adopted can legally adopt a child in New Jersey. The fitness of the prospective adoptive parents is determined by the local child welfare agency. This process includes an inspection and survey of the home, a criminal background check of the prospective adoptive parent, and an investigation as to whether or not the adoptive parent has any history of sexual misconduct.

For more information about the adoption process, contact our Haddonfield law office at (856) 429-5005 to make an appointment with our New Jersey adoption lawyer. You may also complete our online contact form, and one of our associates will get in touch with you to schedule a consultation.

What Is an Open Adoption & What Are Its Pros and Cons?

What Is an Open Adoption?

Whether a couple is experiencing fertility issues, is unable to conceive for any reason, or simply wants to enlarge their family, adopting a child can be a joyful decision. There are two ways to adopt: a closed or open adoption. In an open adoption, the biological parents, or just the mother, are known, and the family maintains contact with them.

How Does Open Adoption Work?

With open adoption, the birth mother decides to give up her child so that another family can adopt him or her. It can take a lot for a parent to reach this conclusion, but in some cases, open adoption is a more attractive option because it allows the biological mother to remain in the child’s life.

The biological mother gets to choose the adoptive parents. However, until she signs final relinquishment papers that give the adoptive parents all legal rights to the child, she is free to change her mind. While this is very rare, it does occasionally happen.

Open adoption can mean that the birth family remains in contact in different ways. Some families choose to allow regular visits while others may let the birth mother and her child stay in contact through email. A New Jersey adoption attorney can help the parents decide the best option for their family.

What Are the Benefits of Open Adoption?

Open adoption is often the right course of action for families looking to adopt. It allows for more opportunities to avoid uncomfortable situations once the child grows older and starts to ask questions. If a child knows that they are adopted, they will naturally ask their parents questions once they reach a certain age. Open adoption often allows many of those questions to already be answered or answered sooner.

The child’s genetic information is easier to access with open adoption. Asking the birth mother about any medical conditions that run in her family can give a better idea of what to possibly expect in the future. It allows you to take certain precautions and gives you awareness of how to better protect your child’s health. This also includes heritage information, which helps the child know his or her religious or ethnic background.

With open adoption, the child doesn’t have to go searching for their biological mother in the future. All the information is readily available, and the birth mother is already in their life. Even if a child and their birth mother have never met, having steady contact makes it easier to eventually meet in person.

What Are the Disadvantages of Open Adoption?

One of the most common disadvantages is that there may be certain problems that arise regarding the boundaries expected from the birth mother or family. They may wish to have a closer relationship with the child that steps over the line of what was stated in the adoption papers. The birth mother may feel overly attached and have difficulty moving on.

As previously mentioned, the birth mother can change her mind before she signs the final adoption papers. This is every adoptive parent’s worst nightmare. However, even if the birth mother decides she wants the child back after the final papers are signed, it can cause serious problems. It could end up with litigation that can cause a rift even though the birth mother doesn’t have legal rights to the child.

Sometimes, open adoption isn’t always the best arrangement for the child. Things can happen, and personalities may clash. If there are issues with drug or alcohol abuse or different values, it could create problems for the child. Some people who were adopted end up regretting ever reaching out to their biological family due to various reasons. In some cases, the child may feel as though they are caught in the middle of their family and their birth mother while a power struggle is occurring. This is never a healthy situation.

If you’re considering adoption, get in touch with a New Jersey adoption attorney at Cofsky & Zeidman LLC by calling (856) 429-5005 or by submitting our contact form.

Everything You Need to Know About Stepparent Adoptions

Your Guide to Adopting Your Stepchild

If you’re one of the 30 million Americans who are a stepparent, you probably have a very strong relationship with your stepchild. In some cases, stepparents may want to formalize this relationship by adopting their stepchild. Understanding how stepchild adoption works can help you decide whether it is right for your family.

Benefits of Adopting Your Stepchild

There are many advantages to adopting your stepchild. First of all, it makes you one of their legal guardians. You can do things like picking them up from school or accessing their medical records without requiring authorization from your spouse.

Even more importantly, stepparent adoption ensures you can stay in the child’s life if something goes wrong. You’ll still have custodial rights if you divorce your spouse. In the unfortunate event of your spouse dying, adoption ensures your child can stay with you instead of ending up with biological family members or foster parents.

Finally, stepchild adoption has a lot of emotional benefits for you and the child. It’s a great way to reassure an anxious child and show you’re not going anywhere. Being legally adopted helps to confirm that you see your stepchild as one of your children.

Can You Adopt if the Biological Parent Is Still Alive?

A common misconception is that stepparent adoption is only allowed when the other biological parent has passed away. This isn’t necessarily true. New Jersey adoption laws simply require you to terminate the other parent’s rights before proceeding with the adoption.

There are a few ways to go about this. The easiest option is simply having the biological parent sign away their rights. If the biological parent doesn’t consent, you can move to have their rights terminated. Typically, you will need to show the court that the biological parent isn’t fulfilling basic parental responsibilities. You can get a termination if the biological parent has abandoned the child or if they have been abusive or neglectful.

Is Stepparent Adoption Easier or Harder Than Regular Adoption?

Other than the hassle of having to deal with a nonconsenting biological parent, stepparent adoption is fairly straightforward. Unlike other forms of adoption, you are usually already caring for the child, and the child will also typically be living with one of their other legal parents. Therefore, the state has fewer tests you have to pass.

You do not have to undergo a lot of parental training courses or have your house pass a rigorous inspection. You also don’t have to meet financial requirements or pay agency fees. This makes the whole adoption process a lot easier. Instead of having to deal with months of waiting and tests, adoption mostly just consists of filling out some standard paperwork with a New Jersey adoption lawyer and submitting it in court.

Understanding the Steps of Stepparent Adoption

When you’re adopting a stepchild in New Jersey, the whole process is fairly quick. In most cases, adoptions are finalized within a couple of months. The first step in the process is terminating parental rights. Depending on your situation, this might just require signing a few documents, or it might involve getting a New Jersey adoption lawyer to arrange a court hearing.

The next step is passing a background check. The stepparent will need to submit themselves to an official check from the state’s Division of Child Protection. Having a criminal past won’t necessarily disqualify you. You’ll only fail the check if it reveals you have a history of harming children or otherwise behaving in a way that shows you’re unfit to be a parent.

Finally, your adoption attorney will help you schedule an adoption hearing with the court. You’ll visit the court to formally petition to adopt the child. If the child is over 10, they’ll need to be present and verbally consent. Once the court approves your case, the adoption will be finalized.

If you’re considering a stepchild adoption, Cofsky & Zeidman can help. We provide family law services to people throughout Haddonfield, Woodbury, and surrounding areas. Call 856-429-5005 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.

Special Needs Adoption Assistance Essentials

What to Know About Adoption Assistance for Special Needs Children

Federal adoption assistance is officially referred to as Title IV-E. State adoption subsidies are generally called non-IV-E. The type of assistance that a child is eligible for depends on that child’s history of care. The details of the special needs eligibility categories are subject to change based on how available adoptive families are, so it’s important to check in regularly to see the most up-to-date version of these regulations.

Adopting a child with special needs is expensive and often takes extra care. It requires a special kind of person, the finances to back it up and a New Jersey adoption attorney. Parenting special needs children encompasses a wide variety of responsibilities that must be learned and taken on all at once. These subsidy programs are designed specifically to serve the needs of the adoptive parents of children with special needs.

The type and amount of assistance that adoptive parents receive depends on which state the child was receiving foster care in prior to being adopted. It is helpful to know that the New Jersey assistance program for state-only funded adoption works identically to the Title-IV-E program, so you don’t have to learn two sets of guidelines.

Defining Special Needs

Categorizing and defining the various reasons why a child needs extra assistance necessary to determine who is eligible for adoption subsidies. As defined legally in the state of New Jersey, a child who has special needs must have at least one care requirement, or “special need,” in the following categories.

  • Dental or medical issues that would have to be treated regularly and require frequent visits to the hospital
  • A physical deformity or defect from being injured, a disease, or an accident, making it impossible or at least partially impossible for the child to work or go to school
  • Disfigurement to a substantial degree, when parts of the face, torso and extremities are lost or have become deformed
  • Children in foster care who have reached at least 10 years of age

Additionally, adoption assistance is available when a professional has diagnosed a child with problems relating to mental, behavior, emotion, or a psychiatric disorder or intellectual incapacity that significantly limits the child’s relationship with both those in their age group as well as their teacher, parents and other adults in authoritative roles. Developmental disabilities are the most common but not the only issue in this category.

Keeping the Children Together

Adoptive kids are also eligible when there are at least three siblings grouped together if it has been deemed that the children cannot be separated. This also applies to half-siblings.

Another situation addressed in this category is when a child is the third in a group of siblings that goes to live in one home or the additional child. They are eligible regardless of whether or not any of the siblings are the recipients of adoption assistance.

Children are eligible for an adoption subsidy when they are in a group of two siblings and one of them falls into any of the mentioned criteria for special needs once it has been decided that the best thing for both children is that they are kept together. This rule also applies to children who are the additional sibling who goes to live in a home where a sibling is receiving assistance.

Assisting Minority Groups

Adoptive homes are unfortunately not as available to all minority and ethnic groups equally. That’s why adoption assistance is there for children at least two years old who are part of one of these demographics.

Assistance is also available if the child is part of one of these groups, is already five years old and has been under the care of the resource parents who will be adopting as long as the best plan for this child is to have the resource parent adopt them.

You should learn what adoption assistance encompasses and the guidelines for eligibility to better prepare for your adoptive child’s future. Call Cofsky & Zeidman at (856) 429-5005 for all your adoption questions. Donald Cofsky is an experienced New Jersey adoption attorney who is prepared to help you through every step of this challenging but rewarding process.

The Adoption Process for Same-sex Couples

How to Adopt for Same-sex Couples

Upon the birth of a child, parental rights automatically default to the baby’s biological parents, also known as the natural parents. An LGBTQ parent will likely turn to adoption when one person in the couple has given birth to a child from someone else outside of the relationship.

When a child comes from a parent’s former relationship, it is common for the new person in the picture to want to show how much they love and care for the child by legally adopting them. It’s a way of moving the relationship forward. If it has become obvious to the couple that they’re staying together for the long haul, it makes sense to move ahead with the legal step of adoption.

This tends to be true whether marriage is part of the plan or not. It’s a matter of commitment and a show of affection and devotion. Through adoption, permanence is brought into the new parent’s relationship with the child.

In some cases, neither of the parents in the same-sex relationship are biologically related to the child. Fortunately for LGBTQ parents living in New Jersey, same-sex couples are just as eligible to go through with adoption as heterosexual couples are.

Although it wouldn’t be necessary for a parent to adopt their own kids in an ideal world, it’s still the best thing to do if you’re a nonbiological parent in a same-sex relationship if you want to secure your parental rights.

Adoption is a way of protecting these rights regardless of where you live or visit on vacation. It’s an option for hopeful parents in a same-sex marriage, civil union, or registered domestic partnership. The possible routes that LGBTQ parents have are broken down into two categories: second-parent adoption and stepparent adoption.

Second-parent Adoption

With second-parent adoption, it doesn’t matter if the relationship between the parents is recognized by law. The parent is allowed through this procedure to adopt their partner’s biological or adoptive child without ending the legal parental status of the original parent. In most states, this is the most common way that LGBTQ parents successfully adopt children. For those living in New Jersey filing for second-parent adoption, the court action is brought in your home county.

Stepparent Adoption

The other course of action is called stepparent adoption. In New Jersey, same-sex parents who are married to their partner are able to adopt a child using the process that a heterosexual stepparent goes through to adopt. The most essential part of this process is gaining legal permission for the adoption from the child’s other natural parent.

A stepparent adoption can also be accomplished by ending the rights that the other parent has to the child. When terminating someone’s parental rights, a hearing is typically necessary to prove the validity of the reasoning for taking the parent away from the child. There must be a serious case brought against the parent’s behavior, such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

It is not as common to move for termination of the other parent’s child rights as it is to simply ask for consent, but it’s still something that happens regularly. The process is much more challenging, and it may be a good idea to contact a New Jersey adoption lawyer for guidance.

Starting the Process

The first thing that a same-sex couple needs to do to start the adoption process is to file an official complaint. This must include all relevant demographic data on you, your child, and the other parent. Details regarding any other kids in the mix and the length of time that this child has been living with which parent should also be noted. This is also when the name that the child will go by after the adoption is decided.

A consent affidavit must be signed by the biological parent for their approval of the adoption to be legally recognized. In these cases, although a hearing is still required, it is simply a formality to go through before the process is completed with a judgment for adoption. Since everyone has agreed to the adoption, there shouldn’t be any hang-ups at this step.

Call a New Jersey adoption lawyer at Cofsky & Zeidman today at (856) 429-5005 to find out more about how we can assist you in these types of matters.