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Whether an adoption is private or through an approved agency, a step-parent adoption or an adoption by same sex couple, the statutory guidelines apply: The New Jersey Adoption Act, N.J.S.A. 9:3-37.
The statute prohibits an approved adoption agency from discriminating “with regard to the selection of adoptive parents for any child on the basis of age, sex, race, natural origin, religion or marital status.”
A step-parent may petition for adoption of a child where he/she has stood in loco parentis to the child, meaning having “stepped in the shoes” of the absent parent and provided the care and parenting of the child such that the child has become the psychological parent. In the Matter of Adoption of a Child by R.K., 303 NJ Super. 182 (App. Div. 1998). In matters of step-parent adoption, the Court may, in its discretion, forgo the agency investigation and report requirement and instead take evidence at the preliminary hearing as to the facts and circumstances. N.J.S.A. 9:3-45.
The Court cannot permit the adoption to be finalized unless it can be shown that the biological parent has “substantially failed to perform the regular and expected parental functions of care and support of the child, although able to do so” (9:3-46(A)(1)) or 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.” N.J.S.A. 9:3-46(A)(2). The statute defines “regular and expected functions of care and support of the child” to include the following: The maintenance of the relationship with the child, such as the child perceives the person as his parent; 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 social service agencies over the birth parent’s objection; or 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.
Once an adoption is finalized, it confers upon the adoptive parents all the rights and obligations of a biological parent, and the child has all the benefits of a biological child, which includes the right to inherit as if naturally born to the adoptive parents. N.J.S.A. 9:3-50. In fact, upon the entry of the judgment of adoption, the Court Clerk of the County in which the adoption was entered shall certify to the State Registrar in the State or County of the child’s birth, the date of the judgment, the names of the adoptive parent(s), the place and date of the child’s birth and the child’s new name, effectively amending the child’s birth records to reflect the adoption. N.J.S.A. 9:3-52.
Given the complexities involved with Adoption, we advise you to contact one of our experienced family law attorneys at 908-735-5161 at Gebhardt & Kiefer today. We handle Adoption and family law issues throughout New Jersey.