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.
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.