Adoption in New Jersey: Five Things that Can Make or Break Your Case

Adoption is a multi-part process filled with a myriad steps more methodical than expedient. The red tape can test the will of would-be parents looking to bring a child into their home and it’s meant to be so. Being a parent is a life-long commitment and prospective fathers and mothers should never enter into it lightly. Many obstacles can cause a breakdown in the progression towards formal adoption.

Any one of these roadblocks can result in a child staying in foster care and the agency disqualifying you as a satisfactory candidate. If you’re in the midst of an adoption, here are five issues you should pay attention to – they just might be the deciding factor in your case.

If you have questions on your New Jersey adoption process feel free to contact Joe Lombardo to understand your rights.

1. Have Natural Parents Terminated Their Rights?

Natural birth parents who’ve established paternity retain their custodial rights to their children, and must, in most cases, consent in writing to the adoption before it can proceed. Always ask for documentation showing that both biological parents have given up their parental rights to avoid a situation where a biological parent could void the adoption. In New Jersey, a birth father can give up custodial rights by denying paternity at any point to vacate his parental rights, including before the child is born (NJ Statute 9:3-41). Undertake every effort to locate the birth father and obtain proof of abdication of parental rights.

2. Presence of a Criminal Record

A criminal record, excluding most traffic violations, is usually a barrier to adoption. Agencies, and the New Jersey Department of Human Services, want to ensure that the parents adopting the child in question can raise the child in a support home free of criminal influence. You and your spouse must pass state and federal background checks to adopt a U.S.-born child legally in New Jersey. If you have any questions about your record, or the past criminal history of your spouse, consult with a New Jersey adoption attorney today.

3. Does the Child Consent to the Adoption?

Adopting an older child – near their teenage years or in the midst of them – carries additional legal hurdles in New Jersey. The court considers a child’s wishes considering adoption when the child is between the ages of 10 and 17 and those wishes can weigh heavily in the adoption decision (NJ Statute 9:3-49). This rule is in place to ensure the child is going to a home where they feel secure, believe they’ll be happy, and to reduce the chances of a failed adoption.

4. Accessing Community Resources and Services

Unwillingness to access community resources and services during the adoption process was seen as a major barrier to completing adoptions by state caseworkers, according to nonprofit Adopt US Kids. As a prospective parent, you must show you’re ready and willing to utilize every tool at your disposal, including community organizations and support groups, to provide a happy and healthy home for your adopted child. It isn’t just about financial wherewithal; it’s about improving quality of life and giving them the best possible chance to succeed.

5. Get Rid of Your Roommates

The Division of Youth and Family Services in New Jersey also conducts its own thorough investigation into any past allegations or convictions concerning child abuse or neglect of you, your spouse and anyone living in your home who is at least 18-years-old. A roommate or relative living in your home with a history of abuse or neglect could bar you and your spouse from adopting a child in New Jersey or any other state in the country. A stable family unit is one of the most important components of the adoption process – don’t jeopardize it.

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