Written by: Marissa DelMauro, Esq.
The decision to enter into a private adoption is an exciting one, but it also comes with several questions regarding the process. In New Jersey, there are two ways to enter into a private adoption: 1) Through an approved agency; or 2) Directly from the birth parents.
Before a Complaint for adoption is filed with the Surrogate Court, the biological parents’ rights must be terminated, whether by a voluntary surrender or a formal termination of parental rights by a Court. When working with an approved agency, the agency conducts the home study before placing a child in the home. It will also work with the birth mothers to surrender their parental rights to the agency following the child’s birth. Under New Jersey law, such surrenders are valid only if signed more than 72 hours following birth. That surrender of parental rights is then irrevocable. When working in a direct private placement scenario, the birth parents can sign documents to surrender their parental rights at any time following the child’s birth. However it is important to note that the surrender will remain revocable (retractable) until the Court terminates the birth parents’ parental rights or the birth parents voluntarily surrender those rights in Court.
Next, whether it is a private adoption or placement through an approved agency, the following procedures must also take place:
- Federal and State criminal background checks and a check of child abuse registries of the adoptive parents
- Home study conducted by an approved adoption, which involves a review of the adoptive parents’ home, interviews of the adoptive parents and any other adults living in the home, review of the adoptive parents’ employment references and verification of income and a health assessment of the adoptive parents
The timing of the filing of a Complaint for adoption differs between an adoption through an approved agency (at least six months) and through birth parents (45 days).
If it is an adoption through an approved agency, the Court will typically schedule the adoption hearing between 10 to 30 days after the Complaint is filed and the child has been living in the adoptive home for at least six months.
If it is a direct adoption through birth parents, the adoptive parents must file the Complaint for adoption in their county of residence, or, the child’s county of birth if the child to be adopted is less than three months old. Once the Complaint is filed, the court then sets a date for a preliminary hearing for termination of the birth parents’ rights. This typically occurs between two to three months after the Complaint is filed. The final hearing is then scheduled approximately six months later. While the adoptive parents wait the six months before the final hearing, an approved agency will conduct post-placement home service visits to ensure the adoptive child’s growth and development as well as the family’s adjustment to caring for the child.
For more information regarding the adoption process in New Jersey contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associates. At the law office of Lyons & Associates, we represent adoptive parents throughout New Jersey. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail, view our website at www.lyonspc.com, or call our office at 908-575-9777.