5 min read
Do I Need an Attorney to Adopt My New Child?
Adding a new member to your family is a happy and exciting time. About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. Of non-stepparent adoptions, about 59% are from the child welfare (or foster) system, 26% are from other countries, and 15% are voluntarily relinquished American babies.
However, the process by which you add a new family member legally often leaves prospective adoptive parents confused. Adoption can be an intimidating process, but a worthwhile journey, to expand your family through adoption. That’s why you need an experienced adoptive attorney on your side to guide you through the journey.
Families come into the adoption journey multiple ways:
- foster parents adopt their foster children*,
- a step-parent adopts their step-child,
- adult adoption,
- same-sex relationship where the adoption protects the rights of the non-biological parent.
*Smedley Law Group is an approved firm by the Division of Child Protection & Permanency (DCP&P) to represent foster parents looking to complete their families through the adoption process.
There’s a lot to consider when you’re adopting a child. One of the most important questions you need to answer upfront is: “Do I need to hire an attorney for the adoption process?” To help answer that question with a “yes,” let’s look at what types of adoptions exist and how they work in New Jersey.
In New Jersey, there are two main ways that someone can adopt a child: Approved Agency Placement and Private Placement Adoption. Here’s what you should know:
Approved Agency Adoption Placement
With this type of adoption, a prospective parent (or parents) put in an application with an adoption agency. The agency reviews the application and determines if the candidates are suitable to be considered for adoption.
The agency will then act as a go-between for the applicants, helping to find them a child who’s a good match for their family. Since adoption agencies vary, you should look at the agency’s background and reviews.
Also, you should realize that agencies can set many of their own rules for “suitability” and preference. For instance, a religious-based adoption agency may give preference to parents who are from the same religious denomination or who are married (as opposed to single parents or those who live together, but aren’t married).
When it comes to approved agency adoptions, an attorney can make the process easier and advocate for you with the contracts and legalities. Even if an agency brokers the adoption, the court system must still have final approval for the adoption. Therefore, an attorney can greatly help you here.
Private Placement Adoptions
This type of adoption is worked out directly between the birth parents of the child and the parents who wish to adopt. In this case, there’s no agency that acts as a go-between for the two parties—they must work out the details themselves.
Oftentimes, the two parties are put in touch with each other by a mutual physician, friend, church member, or even an attorney. In New Jersey, there are three circumstances that allow for a private placement adoption. They include:
- The birth parents are placing their child up for adoption;
- If the prospective adopting parents are a relative of the child (such as a sibling, aunt/uncle, grandparent, or stepparent); and
- The placement is made through an intermediary that meets the requirements of New Jersey family law.
As you can expect, a private placement adoption is more complicated because you’re ultimately responsible for most of the legwork and legalities that would be handled by an adoption agency. Of course, this is why hiring an attorney to help you through this type of adoption protects your rights and your new family member’s for the future.
There are pros to private placement adoption. For instance, if you know the parents of the child you are hoping to adopt, then you have a much greater knowledge of prenatal care and family medical history than you might with an adoption agency.
However, one issue that also complicates matters is money. In New Jersey, money cannot exchange hands during an adoption. Even when that money is meant for the medical care of the parent prior to the birth of the child, paying money can invalidate the adoption. (This was upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the “Baby M” case where the child was born to a surrogate parent whose medical expenses were covered by the adoptive parents. The court said that this was in violation of state laws.)
Adoption Is Entering Into a Complicated Legal and Financial Arrangement Where You Should Be Represented
While it’s possible for parents to handle the process without an attorney, we don’t recommend it. The adoption laws are written in a complicated, formal language that can be hard for a layperson to navigate. Even the paperwork for adoption can be complex and mistakes on these forms can, at best, slow the process down. At worst, it could invalidate the entire adoption.
If you’re a parent facing an application for the adoption of your child, the attorneys at Smedley Law Group recognize that your rights are important and deserve protection. These proceedings can be fraught with emotion, and for that reason, it’s important to have a partner by your side who can work to protect your relationship with your child. Failure to take action in the face of such an application can have lifelong implications.
Our experienced lawyers handle all types of adoption cases, from the relatively simple to the complex. We can help with:
- Closed adoptions
- Contested adoptions
- Private adoptions
- Stepparent adoptions
- LGBTQ adoption
- Grandparent adoptions
- International adoptions
- Out-of-state adoption
- And more.
At Smedley Law Group, we’re here to advocate for your rights. To learn more about how we can help you through the exciting, yet sometimes challenging, adoption process in New Jersey, contact us today to arrange a consultation.
Contact the Compassionate Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Cherry Hill, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about adoption, you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.