Stepparent adoption is the adoption of a child by the spouse of one of the child’s biological parents. This typically occurs when the second biological parents is no longer in the child’s life. If you and your spouse are interested in pursuing stepparent adoption, read on to learn more about the process in the state of New Jersey.
If the noncustodial biological parent of the child is still living, he or she must agree to terminate his or her parental rights in family court before stepparent adoption can be pursued. If the noncustodial parent does not surrender his or her rights, the court may do so if he or she is deemed unfit to parent. Child support payment or lack thereof is not considered a factor in New Jersey when determining parental fitness.
After parental rights of the noncustodial parent are terminated, the stepparent may petition the court to adopt the child. To be eligible for stepparent adoption, the adoptive parent in question must be at least 18 years old and at least 10 years older than the child in question. The family law court in your county will determine whether this adoption is in the best interest of the child through necessary court proceedings.
To formally apply for adoption, the first step is to file a Complaint for Adoption with the family court in the county where the child lives. The other parent will be legally notified and will have 20 days to contest the adoption.
As a stepparent, you must demonstrate to the court that you are committed to the care and custody of the child. In some cases, the judge will take the child’s wishes into account. The custodial parent of the child must also provide written consent to the court for stepparent adoption.
You may also apply for stepparent adoption if your spouse and the other biological parent are both deceased. In this case, permission from the parents is not needed, though you will still need to prove fitness to the court.
To learn more about the stepparent adoption process, contact family law attorney Gary J. Natale, PC, at 973-324-9711. You can also visit him online .