The reasons behind stepparent adoptions are many, including but not limited to the desire to secure an inheritance for the adoptive children. And, they all share one thing in common: They all reflect the desire to legally memorialize the bond and commitment between the stepparent and the adoptive children. We spoke with our legal partners, Lyons & Associates on the topic to help guide you through the process.
If you want to make your child’s relationship with the stepparent a formal and legal one, then what are the steps to do so?
The stepparent adoption process can be easy or full of conflict, mostly depending on the attitude of the child’s other birth parent. Read on for answers to frequently asked questions about stepparent adoptions in New Jersey.
Do I have to notify the other natural parent?
Yes. New Jersey law does not allow a child to have three parents. Before a stepparent can adopt, the child’s other natural parent has to relinquish his or her parental rights through a formal legal process.
What are the steps to relinquish parental rights?
The process of termination of parental rights can happen voluntarily, or a parent’s parental rights can be terminated involuntarily in some circumstances. If the child’s other birth parent agrees to the stepparent adoption, then he or she needs only to sign a legal form relinquishing his or her parental rights.
What does it mean to relinquish parental rights?
It means that the parent no longer has any rights or responsibilities with regard to the child. He or she no longer has to pay child support, but neither does he or she have any right to visitation or parenting time with the child. After relinquishing parental rights, he or she will also have no legal right to be consulted in any important decisions regarding the child. Moreover, the child will have no rights as against that parent for things like inheritance or other monetary support.
Then what happens, after relinquishment of parental rights?
The stepparent must undergo a background check for child abuse or neglect issues. There will be a short hearing, which the child must attend if he or she is 10 years old or older. The hearing is often a celebratory experience. Once the judge signs the adoption papers and they are filed with the clerk of the court, the stepparent becomes the child’s legal parent with all the joys, rights and responsibilities of the birth parent. Further, it provides the adoptive children with rights of inheritance.
Contact Us for Answers to Questions About New Jersey Stepparent Adoptions
At Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to each of our clients, in every family law case we handle. To schedule an appointment to discuss stepparent adoption, call our office at 908-575-9777.
This article was done in partnership with Lyons & Associates.