The difficulty of adopting varies from case to case, but adopting a stepchild can be quite challenging. Today, we're covering everything you need to know about filing to adopt a stepchild in New Jersey.
To schedule a consultation with our team and get the legal counsel you deserve in your stepchild adoption case, contact our office online or via phone at (908) 274-3028.
How Can I Adopt My Stepchild in NJ?
To obtain custody of a stepchild, the noncustodial biological parent must terminate their parental rights. This can occur in one of two ways:
- Voluntary termination. A noncustodial biological parent can voluntarily give up their parental rights by signing a form that formally relinquishes their parental rights.
- Involuntary termination. Even if a noncustodial parent doesn't wish to relinquish their parental rights, a court can still terminate them via a court order. This often occurs when a noncustodial parent receives a conviction for child abuse or neglect, the parent refuses to comply with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, or the court determines that terminating parental rights is in the child's best interests.
Once the noncustodial parent's parental rights are terminated or relinquished, a stepparent can file to adopt them. In broad strokes, stepparent adoptions can be broken down into two steps:
- Background checks and preliminary research. After a stepparent files for adoption, the court will initiate a background check with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to ensure the parent has no convictions for charges such as child abuse.
- Adoption hearing. If a stepparent passes a background check, they must then attend an adoption hearing. The individuals involved in the case (the stepparent, the custodial parent, and occasionally the noncustodial parent and child) will testify before the court. After hearing testimony from every party, the court will decide whether to finalize the adoption. If the court rules in the stepparent's favor, they will be added to the child's birth certificate and receive parental rights.
If you want to adopt a stepchild, we can help. Contact our office online or via phone at (908) 274-3028 to schedule a consultation with our team.