Understanding the Adoption Timeline

One of the most common questions adoption lawyers hear is “how long will it take to adopt a child?” On average, most families complete their adoption in 18 months or less. However, the type of adoption you pick will have a huge impact on the overall timeline.

How Long Does a Domestic Private Adoption Take?

Also called an agency adoption, this is a type of adoption that involves working with a private organization. There is no minimum time limit for this type of adoption, so yours could be finalized in as little as a month. In agency adoptions, 63% of families are matched in six to 12 months. The other 37% usually get matched within two years. Wait times tend to vary based on the particular agency, so it might be a good idea to ask an agency about their average time before you start working with them. Keep in mind that you may have to wait longer if you are very specific about what you want. Those who are open to a broad variety of ages, races, amounts of contact with birth parents, and types of medical history may have a shorter wait time.

How Long Does a Domestic Public Adoption Take?

If you adopt through the public foster system, your wait time will be longer. This type of adoption involves a child who was removed from their parent’s custody. Because the applicable state agency is reluctant to terminate parental rights, this process takes quite a bit of time. Parents in these situations may not be able to finalize the adoption for one to five years. However, much of this time is often spent with the child. In these situations, the prospective parents are usually the child’s foster parents while they work with a New Jersey adoption attorney and wait for the birth parents’ rights to be terminated.

How Long Does It Take to Adopt Internationally?

International adoptions can take quite a bit longer than the standard New Jersey adoption because they involve more bureaucracy and paperwork. The average international adoption will take somewhere between two to three years to complete. Some families may get lucky and complete their adoption in around six months while others may wait as long as five years. Keep in mind that the country you go with has a huge impact on adoption times. Some countries, like China, tend to have a higher wait time because there are a lot of people interested in adopting from them. Countries that are politically unstable also tend to have longer wait times since any turmoil can put a pause on an adoption or require the parents to start the process over again.

What You Can Do to Reduce Adoption Wait Times

As you can see, there is a lot of variation in wait times. If you are interested in a shorter wait time, you may want to opt for a private domestic adoption since these are generally the fastest adoption type. It is also a good idea to be flexible about the type of child you want to be matched with. Prospective parents who are willing to adopt older children or children with health problems may get a match quicker. You can also speed up the process by being willing to travel out of state to meet the birth mother. In any type of adoption, you can speed things up by being prepared. Having your paperwork, home study, background checks, and other essential information ready to go will ensure that you don’t end up with any surprise delays.

If you want to adopt a child as quickly as possible, it is important to have all your paperwork in order. A New Jersey adoption attorney can help you with the preparation and ensure that you file all essential documents on time. At Cofsky & Zeidman, our team helps families throughout the region. Fill out our online contact form or call 856-429-5005 to schedule a meeting today.

Qualification Requirements for State Adoption Assistance Programs

Parents who are considering adopting a child who has certain types of needs may be able to qualify for various state adoption assistance programs. In New Jersey alone, there were nearly 1,100 adoptions in 2011, which means that qualifying for an assistance program isn’t always simple and straightforward. Before you begin the adoption process, you should take a look at the qualification requirements to determine if one or more of the assistance programs would apply to your situation.

What Are New Jersey’s Adoption Assistance Programs?

Adoption assistance is available to those parents who are thinking about adopting a child from foster care. Keep in mind that these subsidies only apply to children who have certain types of needs. The purpose of these subsidies is to help parents pay for the many expenses that come with raising a child.


In order to qualify for state adoption assistance programs, state authorities will take a close look at the child’s history. Because only children who have been in foster care can qualify for these programs, the child’s detailed history must be available. The qualification requirements are the same regardless of the adoption assistance program you obtain.

Qualifying for State Adoption Assistance Programs

The following details all of the circumstances that would allow a child to qualify for an adoption assistance program in New Jersey. Keep in mind that the child in question must meet at least one of these requirements to qualify for subsidies. Subsidies are provided to parents in the event that the needs the child has would create a notable barrier for adoption. If the child in question has a significant disfigurement, they may qualify for subsidies. This disfigurement could be the loss of facial features or the deformation of extremities.


If the child has a dental or medical condition that will require numerous treatments or visits to the hospital, subsidies may be available. Subsidies could also be available in the event that the child has a physical deformity or defect that is expected to make them at least partially incapacitated for work or school. If the child has at least one sibling that meets these criteria, it’s possible that they could receive adoption assistance. This assistance is only available if it’s believed that the siblings must be placed together during adoption.


The child you’re considering adopting could enable you to qualify for a state adoption assistance program if they have been diagnosed with a psychiatric, mental, or emotional disorder. A common example of this type of disorder is a developmental disability. Age can play a factor in whether or not a child receives adoption assistance. If the child is over 10 years old, they could receive assistance without issue. In the event that the child is a member of a minority or ethnic group and doesn’t have easy access to adoptive homes, assistance is available if they are at least 2 years old.


There are times when qualification for a state adoption assistance program could be approved if the child meets certain conditions. These conditions include being at a heightened risk of educational, emotional, or developmental problems, being at a heightened risk of mental illness as a result of a parent’s history, and being placed in a home with a relative who won’t adopt the child unless they receive a subsidy. If the child you want to adopt meets one of these requirements, you may be able to receive some adoption assistance.

How Our New Jersey Adoption Lawyer Can Help You

Our New Jersey adoption lawyer can help you navigate every phase of the process to make sure that it progresses smoothly. A core aspect of our adoption services involves helping parents manage all of the expenses that come with adopting a child, which extends to the application process for adoption assistance programs.


Our assistance also applies to the home study, which is a key step in the adoption process that takes place after you have finished the necessary classes and have submitted your application. If you believe that now is the right time for you to adopt a child, our lawyers will be with you every step of the way.


If you are getting ready to adopt a child who has certain needs and believe that you will require some monetary assistance to handle the initial expenses, contact us online today. You can also give our Haddonfield or Woodbury offices a call at (856) 429-5005 to schedule your first appointment and learn more about our services.

How Much Will You Pay for a Private Domestic Adoption?

Your Guide to Private Domestic Adoption Costs

If you are one of the 20,000 families doing a private domestic adoption this year, there are many expenses to consider. Understanding the costs associated with a private adoption can help the process go a lot more smoothly.

Agency Fee

Many private domestic adoptions are done through an agency that matches you with a prospective birth mother. Agencies typically charge a fee for their service, which can range somewhere between $20,000 and $45,000. This fee will include all your other expenses, so it bundles adoption costs into a single price. Often, the only fee not included in the agency fee is the New Jersey adoption lawyer that you might want to hire to protect your own interests.

Home Study Fees

In any private domestic adoption, you will need a home study. This is a protective measure that ensures your home and your family will provide a safe environment for an adoptive child. The home study involves interviews with a social worker, a tour of your home, and other paperwork. Since the home study requires officials to do a lot of research, it can be expensive. Home studies usually cost somewhere between $900 and $3,000. It is possible to fail a home study, which would mean you might have to make some changes and retake it at a later date. This can cause your private domestic adoption costs to increase.

Expenses for the Biological Mother

The majority of private domestic adoptions involve a pregnant woman who plans on giving the child up at birth. Though you are legally not allowed to pay for the child itself, you can compensate the biological mother for her medical and living expenses during the pregnancy. This can include a broad range of costs, including:

  • Any medical expenses not covered by insurance
  • Prenatal doctor visits and hospital stay
  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Maternity clothes
  • Legal fees for the mother
  • Counseling fees for the mother

While you are not necessarily expected to pay these costs, it is possible that you might need to. Depending on the situation, you might just pay a few thousand, or you might pay tens of thousands of dollars.

Travel Costs

In most private domestic adoptions, travel is very common. At the very least, you might end up needing to travel to a nearby town to meet the biological mother and pick up the infant after they are born. In many cases, prospective parents end up having to travel farther distances that necessitate hours of driving or air travel. While waiting for the baby to be born, you might end up needing to spend a few nights at a nearby hotel too. All of these expenses can add up, so be sure to budget in money for your travel fees.

Legal Fees

In any adoption, there are some prospective legal fees. First of all, you might need to pay a few hundred dollars to file documents with the court. These court filing fees can cover the costs for submitting petitions to adopt and for finalizing your adoption. Next, you might also want to consider fees for a private adoption lawyer. You need a lawyer during any private domestic adoption because the paperwork for adoption is fairly complicated. A lawyer can help prepare all necessary documents so that there are no unpleasant surprises later. Even if you are working with an agency that prepares documents for you, you might want to hire a lawyer to look over the documents and represent your interests. The right legal preparation reduces your risk of losing the child later on.

If you are in need of a Pennsylvania or New Jersey adoption lawyer, Cofsky & Zeidman can help. We have over 25 years of experience, and our team is here to ensure that your interests are protected in any adoption arrangement. Give our Haddonfield, New Jersey, office a call at 856-429-5005 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.

What You Need to Know About Open Adoption Contracts

Adoption Law: Should You Enter Into Contracts With Birth Parents?

In the not too distant past, most adoptions were closed, and many surrendered children never learned their birth parents’ identities. But times have changed, and today, nearly 70% of adoptions are “open.” Keeping communication lines open can be fulfilling for all involved, but things tend to go smoother when boundaries are clearly defined, making formal adoption agreements a wise idea.

What Are Open Adoptions?

There are two main types of adoptions: closed and open. Under the former, birth parents don’t play any role in the child’s life. In some closed cases, birth parents’ names are sealed permanently, and the child can never learn their identities.

Conversely, open adoptions allow for some contact between the adoptive parents, birth parents, and child. Agreements vary. In some situations, the birth parents and adoptive parents raise the child together in a modern, blended family. On the other side of the spectrum, some adoptive parents agree to send the birth parents yearly updates and pictures, but the children never meet or spend time with them.

Contracts and Courts

When entering into an open adoption, contracts are frequently a good idea. More often than not, beautiful friendships and bonds form between parents and children in open adoption situations. But every so often, conflicts sprout. Sometimes, the birth parents overstep agreed-upon boundaries; other times, adoptive parents don’t honor visitation schedules.

When unfortunate situations arise, you may need to go to court, and in those cases, having a contract can help tremendously. However, the agreement must be signed by all involved parties, legally binding, and not flout federal or state laws.

The Typical Open Adoption Contract

Most open adoption contracts outline the rights and responsibilities of all involved parties. Typically, it will stipulate a time frame wherein the adoptive and birth parents can develop a relationship without the child. It’s an important trust-building phase. After the child has bonded with their adoptive parents and understands the situation — which may take years — some families allow the birth parents to play a role in the kid’s life.

In cases where the birth parents are present, an adoption visitation schedule is almost always included in the agreement. Situational boundaries are also built into most open adoption terms. For example, adoptive parents may want the children to celebrate the holidays with them or limit biological parental visits to once a quarter. And many contracts forbid birth parents from contacting the kids without permission or showing up at their schools unannounced.

When Should You Get Adoption Contracts?

Heightened emotions are a hallmark of the pregnancy and birth process. As a result, many people prefer to get contracts taken care of earlier rather than later. But every situation is different. It’s best to speak with a New Jersey adoption attorney who can assess the situational particulars and help you chart the best course.

Consequences of Not Having an Open Adoption Contract

Things can get messy without an adoption contract. Sometimes, agencies make both parties sign an agreement, which can act as formal terms. However, they’re not always thorough, and in some instances, the language unfairly favors one party over the other. Plus, agency agreements aren’t always legally binding and may not pass court muster.

Additionally, the lack of a contract may lead to a protracted process. It could take years to sort out conflicts. In those situations, legal costs can skyrocket, and in the end, a court may rule against you.

Consult With a New Jersey Adoption Attorney

Reach out today to learn more about your adoption rights and options. We understand the related sensitivities and will guide you through the adoption process. Adoption is a noble, commendable, and profoundly loving way to grow a family — and we’re here to support your excellent choice. If you live in the Haddonfield or Woodbury area and are considering an adoption contract, contact Cofsky & Zeidman at (856) 429-5005 or through our secure contact form.

Adopting a Member of Your Family

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.

Foster Parents

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.

Is It Better to Adopt Domestically or Internationally?

Should I Adopt Domestically or Internationally?

Several children are ready to be adopted in the United States. In fact, 107,918 American kids are waiting to be chosen by families right now. In addition to that, Americans completed 19,942 international adoptions in 2007.

Should You Adopt Domestically or Internationally?

Before you decide to adopt domestically or internationally, it is a good idea to consider the following issues.


If adopting a newborn baby is important to you, then you will have to decide to adopt domestically. International adoptions require that you adopt an older child. If, on the other hand, you were hoping to adopt an older child, you must be aware that one of the main reasons that adoptions are disrupted in America is because of the older age of the child.

A disruption occurs after the child was placed in an adoptive home before the adoption had a chance to be finalized. In this case, the child returns to the foster care system. Disruptions occur in 10 percent to 25 percent of the adoptions in the United States. Therefore, if you are happy to accept an older child, adopting internationally may be an option for you.


International adoption can be predictable, but domestic adoptions may be less so. For example, in domestic adoption, the birth mother has the option of choosing the adoptive parents for her baby. Also, this decision could depend on several other factors, including which trimester the mother is currently in and the other professionals involved in the adoption. In most cases, this process may only take a couple of months.

Although an international adoption can be more predictable than domestic adoption, several things can disrupt the international adoption process, including changes in the country’s laws, a shift in the country’s feelings toward the United States and the economic situation in the country.

The Social and Medical History of the Children’s Birth Families

In domestic adoption, agencies often have a considerable amount of medical and social information on the birth mother’s family. Even so, it is important to note that one of the main reasons that adoptions are disrupted in the United States is because of a history of sexual or emotional abuse. If you are adopting internationally, you will most likely receive extensive medical history on the child, but there may not be very much information on his or her family.

Do You Want an Open or Closed Adoption?

For many Americans, international adoption is preferable because they aren’t required to have an open adoption. They do not want any contact with their children’s birth families. Domestic adoptions, on the other hand, may be at least “semi-open.” This means that you will meet the birth mother, and you may even talk to her on the phone.

To make things easier on the mother, the agency will send updates and photographs that you send. This is to reassure the birth mother that she did the right thing and that her baby is having a good life.

How Much Does It Cost?

There is no way to know whether it would be less costly to adopt domestically than internationally. In general, a domestic adoption will cost American parents between $20,000 and $35,000. International costs are a little more unpredictable. Some people paid $15,000 for international adoption, but others spent as much as $50,000. In both cases, your money will be at risk because a domestic adoption could be disrupted, and the country in which your international adoption takes place could slow down the process.

Concern About the Birth Mother

People often have a nightmare scenario in their minds about the birth mother coming to their doors to take their babies back. This is the reason that many people choose to adopt internationally, but this is an unfounded concern. In a legal adoption, the birth mother’s parental rights are terminated, so even if she found your door, she wouldn’t be able to take your baby. You can be assured that she will not know your address if your adoption is closed or semi-open. Besides that, most birth mothers are satisfied with the decision they made to give up their babies for adoption, so you really don’t need to worry about this happening to you.

Even if you are working with an agency, you will want to have the services of a New Jersey adoption lawyer. An attorney will guide you throughout the entire process and address all the legal issues involved in adopting domestically and internationally.

Contact the law firm of Cofsky & Zeidman to consult with a New Jersey adoption lawyer today. Call (856) 429-5005 to reach our main office in Haddonfield.

The Evolution of Same-Sex Adoption in America

It is well-established that children can have happy lives with both heterosexual and same-sex parents, so we are discovering that suitable homes for kids include many different types of combinations. The fact is that same-sex couples are more likely to have adopted children in their homes than heterosexual couples. In 2019, same-sex couples were four times more likely to adopt children than heterosexual couples.

Same-Sex Adoption in the U.S.A.

Same-sex couples are now allowed to adopt in every state as well as in the District of Columbia. This, however, does not mean that same-sex couples do not have some challenges when it comes to this issue. Many faith-based groups are in charge of adoptions, and some have decided to limit their adoptions to heterosexual couples. It is also important to note that these groups may also refuse to allow single men and women to adopt. However, in Michigan, faith-based groups can no longer refuse to let same-sex couples to adopt children.

Each state is allowed to create its own rules as far as this issue is concerned, so some states had let adoption organizations refuse to allow unmarried couples to adopt. Now, same-sex couples are free to adopt throughout the country. Since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in every one of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, many groups are now willing to support same-sex couples in their adoption efforts.

The License to Discriminate

The picture is not entirely rosy. After the 2015 Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, some states enacted laws that give private adoption agencies the ability to refuse to allow same-sex couples to adopt. However, you can avoid these organizations and find an LGBTQ-friendly agency that will support you in your desire to adopt.

The process would be exactly the same for you as it would be for a heterosexual couple, but once it has been completed, adoption can bring you an immense amount of joy. Even so, you must also remember that you are going to run into challenges along the way.

Things to Consider Before Adopting

If you decide that you would like to adopt internationally, you must be aware that some countries do not allow same-sex couples to adopt children. The fact is that it will be easier for you to adopt in the United States, but it is possible to do an international adoption if this is something that you really want. Just be sure to work with a New Jersey adoption attorney throughout the process.

Development of the Children

Some people performed research that showed that if same-sex couples were allowed to raise children, it would be detrimental to the kids. A close look at these studies shows that they were done by people interested in limiting adoption to heterosexual couples. In addition to that, the results that these studies came to often contradicted each other. For example, if the study demonstrated that same-sex couples cannot raise children properly, the study was usually done by a political or religious institution with an agenda. In contrast, if the study showed that same-sex couples do not harm their children in any way, it was done by a group sympathetic to same-sex rights.

When they considered the sexual orientation of the children, the studies found that children with same-sex parents and those with opposite-sex parents both developed their gender identities and sexual orientations in a similar manner.


At the current time, same-sex couples and their children are enjoying more visibility and acceptance, but the difficulties are not over. You may be subjected to discrimination and prejudice from some of the people in your community. You must be prepared to address the comments that your children will hear so that you can help them respond positively in negative situations.

The time has never been better for same-sex couples to adopt children. If you would like to explore this possibility, a New Jersey adoption attorney will be instrumental in helping you make this dream come true. Call our Haddonfield, New Jersey office at (856) 429-5005.

How COVID Has Changed Family Leave Guidelines

Each year, roughly 20 million people in the United States take time off from work through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The guidelines that have been promulgated under this federal law are designed to help ensure that you can take off work to prepare, for example, for a new addition to your family, and during COVID, they have undergone some changes. Learning about these new rules may provide some advantages to you and your family.

Does the FMLA Apply to You?

The FMLA requires employers to give employees time off for a variety of reasons, including childbirth, ill family members, or certain qualifying family emergencies. Many families use FMLA leave to take some time off for childbirth, and it can also be used to take time off for adoption. This gives you valuable time to bond with your new family member, meet with your New Jersey adoption lawyer, and recover from stress or medical problems. When using the FMLA for adoption, you can take time off before the official adoption if you need to travel or be absent from work while preparing for the adoption.

Keep in mind that small businesses and part-time employers are usually exempt from FMLA rules. The laws will apply to any private company that has at least 50 workers or any government agency regardless of the number of employees. To qualify, you must be someone who has worked with the business for at least 12 months and has worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before your leave.

COVID Relief Package Allows for Paid Time Off for Adoption

The FMLA is a government law that requires most businesses to let employees take time off for medical care or the addition of a new child. This act originally just guaranteed that employees could take up to 12 weeks off without being fired because of their absence. Though it did not initially require employers to pay these employees, COVID changed many things. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) mandated that employers pay employees who use FMLA leave.

The new guidelines had employers pay up to 80 hours of sick or family leave at the employee’s regular pay rate. Then, parents could get paid at two-thirds of their usual rate for an additional 10 weeks of FMLA COVID leave. Employers who provided this paid time off could get all sorts of helpful tax credits. Ultimately, many new parents were able to get paid FMLA leave while dealing with adoption.

Employers Still Have an Incentive to Pay for Time Off After Guidelines End

This paid family leave technically expired on Dec. 31, 2020. However, new laws have extended this deadline. Your employer is not required to pay you during your 12 weeks of family leave, but they get benefits for doing so. Through Sept. 30, 2021, businesses get tax credits for paying employees who use FMLA leave. This means that companies can offer paid parental leave without having any financial downside.

The September deadline also applies to the COBRA health insurance law. This new act states that employees can continue using their workplace health insurance after leaving their job. Until Sept. 30, the COBRA stimulus will provide tax credits for employers in exchange for continuing health insurance for employees who leave the company. This extra assistance can be very helpful for families struggling with medical issues.

When you are in the middle of adopting a child, taking time off from work is just one of the many things that you will have to deal with. Cofsky & Zeidman can make things a lot easier for you. Our New Jersey adoption lawyer team is here to help you navigate all the complex regulations and paperwork associated with an adoption. With offices in Haddonfield, Woodbury, and Philadelphia, we serve New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Call 856-429-5005 or email us to schedule your consultation now.

How to Prepare for an Adoption Home Study

Ways to Plan Ahead for an Adoption Home Study Visit

More than 130,000 children are adopted each year in the United States. Planning to welcome a child into your New Jersey home and family is a joyful and exciting time. Part of the process typically includes a scheduled home study visit with a licensed social worker, which is why you will want to be as well-prepared as possible so that the final report will prompt the state to approve your application to become an adoptive parent.

Things That You Can Do Ahead of Time to Prepare for a Home Study Visit

An ultimate goal of a home study visit is for adoptive parents to demonstrate that their home is a safe and healthy environment and that they can meet the emotional, financial, and physical needs of an adopted child. The following list includes several steps that you can take ahead of time to properly prepare for a home study:

• Make sure that your home is up to code for safety regulations.
• Practice asking and answering questions for an interview.
• Seek clarification of state laws and regulations by consulting with a New Jersey adoption lawyer.
• Compile a portfolio of documents that may be relevant to the home study process.

Setting time aside to perform each of these steps before your scheduled home study date may not only help you feel calm and confident about the visit but may also increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Demonstrate That Your Home Is a Clean and Safe Environment

When placing children with families through adoption, the state makes it a priority to ensure that a particular child’s new home will be a healthy and safe environment. The agency representative who visits your home is trained to assess the surroundings to determine whether they meet accepted standards and regulations. Before your home study visit, it is a good idea to make sure all your locks work properly, that you have functioning smoke alarms in the house, and that you have installed covers over all electrical outlets.

You may want to research ahead of time to clarify additional safety regulations, such as making sure that all stairways have railings. The agent might ask you to describe your emergency exit safety plan, and you should also be ready to tell the agent what disaster preparedness measures you have taken. In addition to safety, you’ll want to make sure that your house is clean, and while no one expects it to be perfect, it should be well-maintained.

Your Home Study Will Include an Interview

It is a good idea to think ahead about the questions the visiting agency representative might ask you so that you can have possible answers in mind. You can get family members to help you practice for your interview. Consider questions such as what type of social activities you enjoy or how your family typically handles problems.

Why Talking to a New Jersey Adoption Lawyer Is Helpful

A New Jersey adoption attorney is well-versed in all aspects of the adoption process whether you are welcoming a child through the foster care system or are arranging an international adoption. Any number of legal obstacles can arise that might delay your plans or impede your ability to adopt a child. Setting up a strong support network from the start can help resolve any problem issues that surface during the process.

Having Personal Documents On Hand Can Help

Paperwork pertaining to each member of your household, such as Social Security cards, birth certificates, and drivers’ licenses, may be something that your home study agent wants to see during the home visit. It is also helpful to have employment documents and tax information on hand as well as a list of contact information for your personal references.

It is always better to have personal documents readily available than to be caught off-guard by a request and have to locate information during your home study visit, which could lead to negative comments in the final report.

Try to Relax and Be Yourself

While a home study can sometimes feel invasive, it is important to remember that your willingness to participate is helping you accomplish your goal to adopt a child. Most importantly, just try to be yourself and show your interviewer that you are able and willing to provide a good home for a child in need. You might also want to keep a journal that includes photos or videos about your home study as part of your adoption journey that you may one day want to share with your child.

If you have questions about state laws or a specific legal problem arises, don’t hesitate to contact a New Jersey adoption lawyer by calling Cofsky & Zeidman at our Haddonfield office at (856) 429-5005 or our Woodbury office at (856) 845-2555.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild

What to Expect When You Want to Adopt a Stepchild

Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of adopted stepchildren in the United States? Adopting a stepchild is fairly common, and there is a specific legal process in place for it. If you are ready to adopt your stepchild, all you need to do is follow these steps.

Make Sure You Meet the Requirements

First of all, it is a good idea to meet with a Pennsylvania or New Jersey adoption attorney to ensure you meet all requirements to be an adoptive parent. For example, if the adoption is to take place in New Jersey, you must:

• Be at least 18 years of age
• Be at least 10 years older than the child

Most importantly, the adoption must be in the best interest of the child. This can mean that the child might have to consent to the adoption or that you have to show you can support the child.

Get the Consent Of the Custodial Parent

In most cases, this step is fairly simple. The custodial parent will need to give their consent for you to adopt their child. This typically just means they will need to sign a form. However, if you have divorced the custodial parent but still want to adopt your former stepchild, things can be more complex. In this case, you would need to get the custodial parent’s rights terminated along with the noncustodial parent’s rights.

Terminate the Noncustodial Parent’s Rights

Most states will not allow you to adopt your stepchild if they have another legal parent that is still in the picture. The only way to adopt the child is if you can terminate the rights of the noncustodial parent. In cases where you have contact with the parent and they agree to sign over their rights, you will just need to fill out some standard documents.

When the parent will not voluntarily surrender their rights, your New Jersey adoption attorney will need to show the court that the noncustodial parent meets one of these criteria:

• Does not fulfill parental responsibilities like paying child support and contacting the child
• Has neglected the child’s needs
• Has physically, mentally, or sexually abused the child or other children in their household
• Is not actually the biological father of the child
• Has abandoned the child
• Cannot be found
• Has a long-term substance use problem or other mental illness that will hinder their ability to care for the child

File a Petition for Adoption

Once you have gathered all your documentation that you meet adoption requirements, your attorney just needs to formally inform the court that you want to adopt the child by filing a petition. This tells the court about your situation and shows proof that the custodial parent consents to the adoption. After the court reviews your case, it will schedule a date for a hearing. In many cases, this hearing is a mere formality. However, you will still need to be fully prepared.

Finalize the Adoption at the Adoption Hearing

At your hearing, your lawyer will need to provide all relevant legal documents, and you will need to explain why it is in the best interest of the child to be adopted. Once the court approves the adoption, you are formally your stepchild’s parent. You will have full parental rights, and you will get a birth certificate that lists you as one of their parents.

Ultimately, the stepchild adoption process does not have to be too confusing or stressful. There are all sorts of legal steps you need to follow, though, so it is a good idea to have an adoption attorney on your side. As an experienced family law firm in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Cofsky & Zeidman provides representation you can count on. Call our team at 856-429-5005 or email us to schedule a consultation.

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