NJ Family Law - Adoption

NJ Adoption

Generally, any person 18 years old or older and at least 10 years older than the child sought to be adopted may file a complaint for adoption. Once the complaint is filed, approved agencies and other approved intermediaries conduct a home study. The home study focuses on suitability, criminal background check, and history of child abuse.

A biological parent has the right to object to the adoption of his or her child within 20 days after the filing of the complaint for adoption for a state resident and 35 days after the filing in the case of a nonresident. Failure to object within that time period constitutes a waiver of the right to object.

In a contest between a person objecting to the adoption and the prospective adoptive parent, the standard shall be the best interest of the child. The best interest of a child requires that a parent affirmatively assume the duties encompassed by the role of being a parent. In determining whether a parent has affirmatively assumed those duties, the court shall consider, but is not limited to consideration of:

  • the fulfillment of financial obligations for the birth and care of the child;
  • demonstration of continued interest in the child;
  • demonstration of a genuine effort to maintain contact and communication with the child; and
  • demonstration of the establishment and maintenance of a place of importance in the child's life.

A judgment of adoption shall be entered over an objection if the court finds during the six-month period prior to the placement of the child for adoption or within 120 days after the birth of a child (among other factors): (1) that the parent has substantially failed to perform the regular and expected parental functions of care and support of the child, although able to do so, or (2) that the parent is unable to perform the regular and expected parental functions of care and support of the child and that the parent's inability to perform those functions is unlikely to change in the immediate future.

The regular and expected functions of care and support of a child shall include the following:

(a) the maintenance of a relationship with the child such that the child perceives the person as his parent;

(b) communicating with the child or person having legal custody of the child and parenting time rights, or unless prevented from so doing by the custodial parent or other custodian of the child or a social service agency over the birth parent's objection; or

(c) providing financial support for the child unless prevented from doing so by the custodial parent or other custodian of the child or a social service agency.

In a contested adoption case, generally a biological parent has made an objection to the adoption and requests the court hear evidence relating to the objection. If the court finds against the objecting party, it will make an order terminating the parental rights of that party and proceed with the adoption. If, based upon the approved agency's report and the evidence presented at the hearing, the court is satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court shall enter a judgment of adoption. If the court is not satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court shall deny the adoption.

The entry of a judgment of adoption shall establish the same relationships, rights, and responsibilities between the child and the adopting parent as if the child were born to the adopting parent.

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