What rights do stepparents have?
New Jersey stepparents have little to no rights regarding their stepchildren. A stepparent does not have the ability to petition for visitation or custody of the stepchild during a divorce that supersedes the rights of the biological parent, even if they are unfit. New Jersey courts will typically favor a blood relative in these circumstances, such as an aunt, uncle, or cousin.
Why do stepparent adoptions occur?
There are various reasons for a stepparent adoption to take place. In some instances, a stepparent will adopt their child in the event that the child’s biological parent is institutionalized or incarcerated. Stepparent adoptions may also occur because stepparents have few rights when it comes to their stepchild and adoption may solve this problem.
What can I expect regarding the stepparent adoption process in New Jersey?
Stepparents will need to meet the following requirements to be eligible to adopt their stepchild:
- A child over 10 must consent to the adoption. They must also be present at the adoption hearing.
- The legal or biological parents of the child must consent to the adoption. Unless the court finds that the other parent’s consent is not legally required, which will depend on the following factors: whether the non-custodial parent is named on the birth certificate of the child, and the extent to which they have taken physical, emotional, and financial responsibility for the child. New York courts will typically only terminate parental rights in incidents where evidence of neglect or abuse is found.
When these requirements are met, the adoption process will then begin. However, before the process begins, you will want to retain the services of an experienced family law attorney.
You will be required to be fingerprinted, have a background check conducted, and you will need to be cleared through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
Next, the adoption hearing will take place. Once the adoption is complete, the stepparent will be viewed under the law as the biological and legal parent of the stepchild. This means that they will hold the same parental rights and obligations as any biological parent in New Jersey.
Contact our experienced Bergen County firm
At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients to understand and protect their legal rights before, during, and after the divorce process in towns across New Jersey and Bergen County, including Hackensack, Ridgewood, Paramus, Teaneck, and Fort Lee. To speak with our team of divorce lawyers today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your concerns about your divorce, please contact us online, or through our Hackensack, NJ office at (201) 397-1750.