HIGHLIGHTS OF N.J. ADOPTION LAW
and FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ’s)
- 1. Q. What is a Private Adoption?
- A. Private Adoptions are arranged either on a “Face to Face” basis with no intermediary, or with the use of a private intermediary.
- 2. Q. Can you pay a private intermediary if you adopt in New Jersey?
- A. If a private intermediary is used, the private intermediary cannot be paid anything for his or her services. Any payment is a direct violation of the law.
- 3. Q. Can you advertise for an adoption?
- A. Yes, a prospective adoptive couple can advertise in New Jersey, which is something that not all states allow.
- 4. Q. Once you find a child privately and the child is placed with you, what must you do next?
- A. Once a child is located who is available for adoption, a complaint in adoption must be filed promptly, within 45 days of receipt of the child. Upon the filing of a complaint, the child becomes a ward of the court, the adopting parent or parents are awarded custody, and an approved agency is appointed to do an adoption investigation.
- 5. Q. How many court hearings are there and when do they take place in a private adoption?
- A. A preliminary hearing is scheduled in 2-3 months of the filing of the complaint, at which time the parental rights of the birth parents are terminated, and the court determines if the child is fit for adoption and if the adoptive parents are fit.
- 6. Q. When does the final hearing take place?
- A. The final hearing is 6 months after the preliminary hearing after the supervisory visits are completed by the approved agency.
- 7. Q. How does an agency adoption differ from a private adoption?
- A. The agency makes the placement of a child either from a birth mother that the agency has located, or from a birth mother that the adoptive parents have located as part of an identified adoption.
- 8. Q. When may a birth parent’s rights be relinquished in an agency adoption.
- A. The birth parents’ rights may be relinquished to a New Jersey agency 72 hours after the child is born. Once the birth parents sign the proper relinquishment form after having received the appropriate counseling, it is irrevocable and is only subject to being set aside if fraud or duress on the part of the agency can be established.
- 9. Q. How are the rights of an unknown or unnamed birth father terminated?
- A. This is normally done at the hearing for the finalization of the adoption. However, this can be accomplished earlier if desired. It requires the filing of the Complaint in Adoption as soon as possible after the placement. The termination hearing will take place 2 -3 months after the Complaint is filed with the Court, but the finalization will not take place until after the child has been in the adoptive home for at least 6 months and all post-placement visits have been completed.
- 10. Q. How many court hearings are there and when do they take place in an agency adoption?
- A. There is one court hearing. It cannot take place until after 6 months from the date of the placement. If the Complaint is filed early in order to terminate parental rights, then there will be 2 hearings.
- 11. Q. What expenses may an adoptive parent pay in connection with an adoption?
- A. New Jersey allows, in either a private or agency placement, payment of the birth mother’s medical expenses as well as reasonable living expenses. Counseling and legal fees for the birth parents may also be provided. Pennsylvania does not allow payment of birth mother living expenses for adoptions which are to be finalized in Pennsylvania.
- 12. Q. If the adoption falls through can the adoptive parents get their money back?
- A. No, not in New Jersey. If an adoption does not take place, the return of the child cannot be conditioned on a repayment of expenses. Further, birth parents must be informed as to this lack of conditions.
DOCUMENTS ISSUED AFTER ADOPTION AND POST-ADOPTION ISSUES
- 16. Q. What documents are issued in connection with an adoption?
- A. In both a private adoption and an agency adoption, the judge will sign a judgment of adoption which will then be sent 1-2 weeks after the final hearing. A new birth certificate is also issued showing the adoptive person or couple as the parent or parents of the child. It usually takes 1- 4 months to obtain a new birth certificate after the adoption is finalized, depending on the state issuing the certificate.
- 17. Q. Are all court documents and proceedings sealed or open to the public?
- A. Currently in New Jersey all adoption records are sealed and may only be opened by a court order for a showing of “good cause”. However, under recently enacted laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, adoptees and certain family members can get a copy of the original birth certificate when the adoptee turns 18 years of age.
- 18. Q. When can I get a new social security number for my child?
- A. Generally, after the adoption is complete and you have received the new birth certificate for your child with the name you have selected for your child on it.
- 19. Q. Can I file a tax return and claim my child as a dependent if my child does not have a social security number?
- A. Yes. You can obtain a temporary tax identification number by filling out and filing form W7-A for a temporary adoption tax identification number for your child. This will allow you to claim your child as a dependent pending finalization of the adoption and obtaining the social security card. However, currently a social security number is required to claim the child care credit. For more information, see the Child Care Credit Alert.
- 20. Q. What is the adoption tax credit?
- A. The U.S. Government has passed a law which allows a dollar for dollar reduction of your income taxes for adoption related expenses for the tax year 2020. There are certain limitations on this involving family income and certain requirements as to when this can be claimed, and it should therefore be discussed with your tax advisor and/or adoption attorney.
- 21. Q. Is the adoption tax credit now permanent?
- A. Yes, the credit has now been made permanent as of January 2013, and has remained in effect after the recent tax legislation.
- 22. Q. How does the Adoption Tax Credit affect parents in 2018?
- A. The is a credit for adoptions finalizing in 2020 for families with a modified
adjusted gross income (MAGI). If over that amount, the credit phases out and is gone. For more information click link, Adoption Tax Credit Update
- 23. Q. If I adopt a child in a foreign country do I have to re-adopt in the United States?
- A. Yes and no. If your child enters the United States with an IR-3 or IH-3 Visa then your child is automatically a United States citizen and you are not required to re-adopt. However, many agencies and attorneys strongly recommend re-adoption, and some agencies require it. One advantage is that this will provide you and your child with an official Judgment of Adoption from a State Court in the United States, a copy of which can always be obtained if it is ever misplaced, lost, or destroyed, unlike our ability to get a duplicate from the foreign country. If your child enters the United States with an IR-4 or IH-4 Visa, the Unites States requires you to re-adopt the child which is a condition of your child’s admission into this country, and your child cannot become a U.S. citizen until this is done.
- 24. Q. How do I get a New Jersey birth certificate for my child?
- A. If and when you re-adopt, your attorney can arrange for a New Jersey birth certificate to be issued, as long as you are a US citizen and a resident of New Jersey. If you are a resident of another state, similar laws may apply.
- 25. Q. Can I change my child’s name?
- A. Yes. As part of the New Jersey adoption process you can select any name you wish for your child, whether it is the same one as on the foreign adoption decree, or a different one. The name you select will be on the New Jersey Judgment of Adoption, as well as the New Jersey birth certificate.
- 26. Q. If I am satisfied with my child’s name on the foreign birth certificate and my child came in on an IR-3 or IH-3 Visa, and if my agency does not require me to re-adopt, can I still get a New Jersey birth certificate without re-adopting?
- A. Yes, however, New Jersey while recognizing foreign adoptions per a New Jersey statute which was recently signed into law, does not currently have a formal mechanism for registering the foreign adoption other than by filing to re-adopt or confirm the adoption as described above.
- 27. Q. Have the rules for foreign adoptions recently been changed?
- A. Yes. As of April 1, 2008, the United States, as a member of the Hague Convention, implemented many new procedures involving any adoptions with other countries that are also members of the Hague. Therefore, you must be sure to work only with agencies that have received Hague accreditation by the United States Department of State for these adoptions.
- 28. Q. What tips would you give for those seeking to adopt?
- (a) Do your homework with regard to adoptions.
- (b) Deal only with an approved and reputable agency if you are going the agency route.
- (c) Make sure to deal with an attorney who is experienced in the area of adoption law. The Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys can provide you with a list of its members, all of whom are required to meet a certain standard of expertise in Adoption Law.
- (d) Have your home study done as early as possible to avoid any delays.
- (e) When dealing with a birth mom in a private adoption, be wary of any requests for money. It is always advisable to employ an attorney in a private adoption setting.
- (f) Do not forget about the birth father – he has rights too, which must be dealt with and generally are taken care of either by the agency or by the attorney.
- (g) If you are considering adoption, do not be afraid to “tell the world” of your search since word of mouth is often one of the best ways of finding a child to adopt.
Mr. Cofsky represents adopting parents in private, agency, international, and domestic placements, and in contested adoptions, and has completed over 1,500 adoption finalizations. He has also advised and represented adoption agencies in legal matters. He has served as a lecturer and workshop leader at numerous adoption seminars, and has appeared on television with regard to adoption related issues. Mr. Cofsky is a Past President of the Academy of Adoption Attorneys and a Fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproduction Technology Attorneys (now known as the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys). He is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Civil Trial Attorney, and has received “A” and “V” ratings from Martindale-Hubbell, its highest ratings for ability and ethics. Mr. Cofsky was named as an “Angel in Adoption” in 2005 by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in Washington, D.C.