Understanding the Steps of Grandparent Adoption in NJ
In the U.S., over 2.4 million grandparents are currently raising their grandchildren. For many families, formally adopting grandchildren can be a smart move that gives grandparents all the legal rights of a parent. If you’re interested in adopting a grandchild, you need to be prepared to follow these steps.
Terminating Parental Rights
In New Jersey, a child can only have two legal parents at most. This means grandparents cannot adopt until the biological parents’ rights have been terminated. There are several ways to go about this. The simplest way is having the biological parent agree to relinquish their rights. If they agree to do this, they just need to fill out the appropriate forms and have a discussion with the Department of Children and Families. The biological parents have the option of naming someone as the prospective adoptive parent when they surrender their rights. If your children are willing to do this, things are quite simple.
It gets a bit more complicated if your child isn’t willing to sign over your grandchildren to you. In these cases, you will need to pursue an involuntary termination of parental rights. This typically involves proving in court that the biological parent has abandoned or abused the child. Some reasons the court may terminate parental rights include:
• Causing severe physical harm to the child
• Allowing others to harm the child
• Using excessive physical punishment
• Failing to provide basic care
• Emotionally harming the child
• Abandoning the child
Welcoming Your Grandchild to Your Home
In many cases of grandparent adoption in NJ, the grandchild is already living with the grandparent by the time they decide to seek adoption. However, if your grandchild isn’t already living with you, it’s a good idea to take steps toward moving them in. After the parent is deemed unfit and the child is removed from their custody, the Department of Children and Families typically prioritizes family members.
If you have never met your grandchild or have had former run-ins with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), you may need to get a home study done and register as a foster parent. However, in cases where the grandparents already know the child and are part of their life, they may be allowed to move in immediately. The important thing at this step is to talk with DCP&P and a New Jersey adoption lawyer to find out what you need to do. They can help you fill out relevant paperwork and formalize your intent to adopt. It’s extremely important that you go about the process the right and legal way.
Finalizing the Adoption
There are just a few steps left to take to finalize your grandparent adoption in New Jersey. DCP&P will need to supervise you and your grandchild for six months, and then they can give you formal consent for adoption. Once you achieve this consent, your New Jersey adoption lawyer can then file a petition with the court.
The court will receive your petition to adopt and set a hearing date. At this hearing, the caseworker will give the judge details about your case. Typically, the final adoption hearing is merely a formality. If you’ve met all the qualifications beforehand, the judge will approve your petition to adopt. From this point on, you are your grandchild’s legal parent with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities of parenthood.
We Can Help
If you or your loved ones are going through the grandparent adoption process, it’s important to have experienced legal representation who can help you figure out how to adopt grandkids. Though most grandparent adoptions are fairly straightforward, there are still quite a few legal documents and proceedings to handle. Cofsky & Zeidman can guide you through the legal process and assist with sensitive family matters. We’re happy to help people throughout Haddonfield or Woodbury in New Jersey. Call (856) 429-5005 or (856) 845-2555 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about grandparent adoption.