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Child Adoption Laws
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Child Adoption Laws
New Jersey


We hope to help you learn more about the child adoption laws in the State of New Jersey.  Please note that while we have tried to be as current as possible, laws are occasionally rewritten and/or amended; accordingly, the New Jersey adoption law provided below may have errors, omissions, or may not be the most current version. Please remember that this information should not be used as the basis for making any legal decision. Please use appropriate resources and an attorney's advice when making legal decisions.

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New Jersey Statutes

New Jersey Adoption Statute and Law
Title 9: Juvenile and Domestic Relations
Subtitle 2: Adoption
Chapter 3: Adoption in General

Sections 1-56

(This page was last updated on 09/10/13.)

9:3-1 to 9:3-36. Repealed

9:3-37. Liberal construction; rights of affected persons.
This act shall be liberally construed to the end that the best interests of children be promoted and that the safety of children be of paramount concern. Due regard shall be given to the rights of all persons affected by an adoption.

9:3-38 Definitions.

For the purposes of this act [C.9:3-37 through C.9:3-56]:
a. "Approved agency" means a nonprofit corporation, association or agency, including any public agency, approved
by the Department of Children and Families for the purpose of placing children for adoption in New Jersey;
b. "Child" means a person under 18 years of age;
c. "Custody" means the general right to exercise continuing control over the person of a child derived from court
order or otherwise;
d. "Guardianship" means the right to exercise continuing control over the person or property or both of a child
which includes any specific right of control over an aspect of the child's upbringing derived from court order;
e. "Guardian ad litem" means a qualified person, not necessarily an attorney, appointed by the court under the
provisions of this act or at the discretion of the court to represent the interests of the child whether or not the child is a
named party in the action;
f. "Parent" means a birth parent or parents, including the birth father of a child born out of wedlock who has
acknowledged the child or to whom the court has ordered notice to be given, or a parent or parents by adoption;
g. "Placement for adoption" means the transfer of custody of a child to a person for the purpose of adoption by that
person;
h. "Plaintiff" means a prospective parent or parents who have filed a complaint for adoption;
i. "Legal services" means the provision of counseling or advice related to the law and procedure for adoption of a
child, preparation of legal documents, or representation of any person before a court or administrative agency;
j. "Surrender" means a voluntary relinquishment of all parental rights by a birth parent, previous adoptive parent, or
other person or agency authorized to exercise these rights by law, court order or otherwise, for purposes of allowing a
child to be adopted;
k. "Home study" means an approved agency's formal assessment of the capacity and readiness of prospective
adoptive parents to adopt a child, including the agency's written report and recommendations conducted in accordance
with rules and regulations promulgated by the Director of the Division of Youth and Family Services; and
l. "Intermediary" means any person, firm, partnership, corporation, association or agency, which is not an approved
agency as defined in this section, who acts for or between any parent and any prospective parent or acts on behalf of
either in connection with the placement of the parent's child for adoption in the State or in any other state or country. An
intermediary in any other state or country shall not receive money or other valuable consideration in connection with the
placement of a child for adoption in this State. An intermediary in this State shall not receive money or other valuable
consideration in connection with the placement of a child for adoption in this State or in any other state or country. The
provisions of this subsection shall not be construed to prohibit the receipt of money or other valuable consideration
specifically authorized in section 18 of P.L.1993, c.345 (C.9:3-39.1).
HISTORY: L. 1977, c. 367, § 2; amended 1993, c. 345, § 1; 1999, c. 53, § 2, eff. Mar. 31, 1999; 2006, c. 47, § 33, eff.
July 1, 2006.

9:3-39.1. Offering, assisting in the placement of child for adoption, conditions
18. a. A person, firm, partnership, corporation, association or agency shall not place, offer to place or materially assist in the placement of any child for adoption in New Jersey unless:

(1) the person is the parent or guardian of the child, or

(2) the firm, partnership, corporation, association or agency is an approved agency to act as agent, finder or to otherwise materially assist in the placement of any child for adoption in this State, or

(3) the placement for adoption is with a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, birth father or stepparent of the child, or

(4) the placement is through an intermediary and (a) the person with whom the child is to be placed has been approved for placement for adoption by an approved agency home study which consists of the agency's formal written assessment of the capacity and readiness of the prospective adoptive parents to adopt a child, conducted in accordance with rules and regulations promulgated by the Director of the Division of Youth and Family Services;

(b) The birth parent, except one who cannot be identified or located prior to the placement of the child for adoption, shall be offered counseling as to his or her options other than placement of the child for adoption. Such counseling shall be made available by or through an approved licensed agency in New Jersey or in the birth parent's state or country of residence. The fact that counseling has been made available, and the name, address and telephone number of the agency through which the counseling is available, shall be confirmed in a written document signed by the birth parent and acknowledged in this State pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (R.S.46:14-2.1) or acknowledged in another state or country pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (R.S.46:14-6.1) a copy of which shall be provided to the birth parent and the agency conducting the adoption complaint investigation pursuant to section 12 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-48) and shall be filed with the court prior to termination of parental rights; and

(c) Written notice shall be given to the birth parent, except one who cannot be identified or located prior to the placement of the child for adoption, and the adoptive parent that the decision not to place the child for adoption or the return of the child to the birth parent cannot be conditioned upon reimbursement of expenses by the birth parent to the adoptive parent, and that payments by the adoptive parent are non-refundable. Provision of such notice shall be confirmed in a written document signed by the birth parent and adoptive parent in separate documents which shall be acknowledged in this State pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (C.46:14-2.1) or acknowledged in another state or country pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (R.S.46:14-6.1), a copy of which shall be provided to the birth parent, and the agency conducting the adoption complaint investigation pursuant to section 12 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-48), and shall be filed with the court prior to termination of parental rights.

b. The Superior Court in an action by the Commissioner of Human Services may enjoin any party found by the court to have violated this section from any further violation of this section.

c. A person, firm, partnership, corporation, association, or agency violating subsection a. of this section shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

d. A person, firm, partnership, corporation, association, intermediary or agency other than an approved agency which pays, seeks to pay, receives, or seeks to receive money or other valuable consideration in connection with the placement of a child for adoption shall be guilty of a crime of the second degree.

e. It shall not be a violation of subsection d. of this section: (1) to pay, provide or reimburse to a parent of the child, or for a parent of the child to receive payment, provision or reimbursement for medical, hospital, counseling or other similar expenses incurred in connection with the birth or any illness of the child, or the reasonable living expenses of the mother of the child during her pregnancy including payments for reasonable food, clothing, medical expenses, shelter, and religious, psychological, vocational, or similar counseling services during the period of the pregnancy and for a period not to exceed four weeks after the termination of the pregnancy by birth or otherwise. These payments may be made directly to the birth mother or on the mother's behalf to the supplier of the goods or services, or

(2) where the child is from a foreign country, reasonable and customary fees and expenses of a foreign agency or attorney for the care or representation of the child during any period of foster or institutional care in the child's country of origin, or

(3) reasonable attorney fees and costs for legal services.

9:3-40. Qualification of agencies for approval
The Commissioner of Children and Families shall promulgate rules and regulations relating to the qualification of agencies for approval to make placements for adoption in New Jersey. The rules and regulations shall include, but shall not be limited to, standards of professional training and experience of staff, requirements relating to responsibilities and the character of trustees, officers or other persons supervising or conducting the placement for adoption program, adequacy of facilities, maintenance and confidentiality of casework records and furnishing of reports. The requirements relating to the character of trustees, officers or other persons supervising or conducting the placement for adoption program at the agency shall include a prohibition on engaging in, or the permitting of, any conduct that is deemed inappropriate to the purposes of the agency. In the selection of adoptive parents the standard shall be the best interests of the child; and an approved agency shall not discriminate with regard to the selection of adoptive parents for any child on the basis of age, sex, race, national origin, religion or marital status provided, however, that these factors may be considered in determining whether the best interests of a child would be served by a particular placement for adoption or adoption.



9:3-40.1. Denial, suspension, revocation, refusal to renew agency's certificate on character requisites
2.The Department of Children and Families may deny, suspend, revoke or refuse to renew an adoption agency's certificate of approval if the agency is in violation of the requirements relating to the character of trustees, officers or other persons supervising or conducting a placement for adoption program established pursuant to section 4 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-40).


9:3-41. Surrender of child
5. a. Surrender of a child to an approved agency for the purpose of adoption, other than a surrender taken in accordance with P.L.1955, c.232 (C.9:2-13 et seq.), shall be by a signed instrument acknowledged by the person executing the instrument before an officer authorized to take acknowledgments or proofs in the State in which the instrument is executed. Prior to the execution of the surrender, the approved agency shall, directly or through its agent, inform the person executing the surrender that the instrument is a surrender of parental rights by the signatory and means the permanent end of the relationship and all contact between the parent and child. The approved agency shall advise the parent that the surrender shall constitute relinquishment of the person's parental rights in or guardianship or custody of the child named therein and consent by the person to adoption of the child. The approved agency shall offer counseling to the parent, prior to the execution of the surrender. The surrender shall be valid and binding without regard to the age of the person executing the surrender and shall be irrevocable except at the discretion of the approved agency taking such surrender or upon order or judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction setting aside such surrender upon proof of fraud, duress or misrepresentation by the approved agency. The surrender taken pursuant to this section shall be valid whether acknowledged in this State pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (R.S.46:14-2.1) or acknowledged in another state or country pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (R.S.46:14-6.1).

b. Any approved agency may accept custody of a child by a duly executed instrument of surrender from a parent or guardian of the child or from another approved agency or any agency for the care and protection of children approved by any other state, by the United States or by any foreign country, which has duly obtained the authority to place the child for adoption.

c. A surrender executed in another state or foreign country by a domiciliary of that state or country and valid where executed shall be deemed a valid surrender in this State if taken more than 72 hours after the birth of the child.

d. At the request of a parent of the child, an approved agency authorized to receive surrenders, may receive that parent's surrender of his child for purposes of having the child adopted by a person specified by the surrendering parent. The agency shall follow all regulations regarding the securing of a surrender and shall cooperate with the prospective parents in the processing of the proposed adoption. An adoption based on a surrender under this subsection shall be deemed one in which the child was received from an approved agency for purposes of section 11 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-47).

e. A surrender of a child shall not be valid if taken prior to the birth of the child who is the subject of the surrender. A surrender by the birth parent of a child shall not be valid if taken within 72 hours of the birth of the child. The denial of paternity by an alleged father, at any time including prior to the birth of the child, shall be deemed a surrender for purposes of allowing the child to be adopted.

L.1977,c.367,s.5; amended 1993,c.345,s.3.


9:3-41.1 Provision of available information on child's development to prospective parent
1. a. An approved agency making an investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the surrender of a child shall provide a prospective parent with all available information, other than information which would identify or permit the identification of the birth parent of the child, relevant to the child's development, including his developmental and medical history, personality and temperament, the parent's complete medical histories, including conditions or diseases which are believed to be hereditary, any drugs or medications taken during pregnancy and any other conditions of the parent's health which may be a factor influencing the child's present or future health. This information shall be made available to the prospective parent prior to the actual adoptive placement to the extent available and supplemented upon the completion of an investigation conducted by an approved agency pursuant to section 12 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-48).

b. The available information required of an approved agency by subsection a. of this section shall be presented to the adoptive parents on standardized forms prepared by the Commissioner ofChildren and Families.



9:3-42. Jurisdiction in Chancery, venue
6. An action for adoption shall be instituted in the Superior Court, Family Part of the county in which the prospective parent resides, or in the county where the child resided immediately prior to placement for adoption, or if the child is less than three months of age, the county in which the child was born; except that whenever the child to be adopted has been received into the home of a prospective parent from an approved agency, the action may be instituted in the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part of any county in which the approved agency has an office.

L.1977,c.367,s.6; amended 1991,c.91,s.193; 1993,c.345,s.5

9:3-43. Instituting adoption actions; qualifications
7. a. Any person may institute an action for adoption except that a married person may do so only with the written consent of his spouse or jointly with his spouse in the same action or if living separate and apart from his spouse.

b. A plaintiff, at the time of the institution of the action, shall have attained the age of 18 years and shall be at least 10 years older than the child to be adopted, except that the court for good cause may waive either requirement, which waiver shall be recited in any judgment of adoption thereafter entered.

L.1977,c.367,s.7; amended 1993,c.345,s.6.


9:3-43.1 Conditions for recognizing foreign adoptions, certain circumstances.

1. a. Notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-37 et seq.) or any other law to the contrary, an adopting parent shall not be required to petition a court in this State for adoption of a child if:

(1)the child was adopted under the laws of a jurisdiction or country other than the United States; and

(2)the validity of the foreign adoption has been verified by the granting of an IR-3 immigrant visa, or a successor immigrant visa, for the child by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

b.If an adopting parent chooses to file a petition for adoption in this State, a court may grant a judgment of adoption without requiring the consent of a parent otherwise required pursuant to section 5 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-41) if the petitioner files with the petition a judgment of adoption, guardianship or termination of parental rights granted by a judicial, administrative or executive body of a jurisdiction or country other than the United States that is in compliance with the laws of that country.


9:3-43.2 Force of final judgment of adoption in a foreign jurisdiction, certain circumstances.

A final judgment of adoption granted by a judicial, administrative or executive body of a jurisdiction or country other than the United States shall have the same force and effect in this State as that given to a judgment of adoption entered by another state, without additional proceedings or documentation if:

a.the adopting parent is a resident of this State; and

b.the validity of the foreign adoption has been verified by the granting of an IR-3 immigrant visa, or a successor immigrant visa, for the child by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

 

9:3-44. Filing of complaint
Whenever a person receives a child into his home for the purpose of adoption other than from an approved agency, a complaint for adoption shall be filed within 45 days after receipt of the child. If the person receiving the child has been approved previously for placement for adoption in accordance with the provisions of section 18 of P.L.1993, c.345 (C.9:3-39.1), the person shall, immediately upon receiving the child, notify the approved agency which granted such approval of the receipt of the child, and that agency shall undertake immediate supervision of the child in accordance with rules and regulations promulgated by the Director of the Division of Youth and Family Services. The cost of such supervision shall be paid by the person receiving the child. If the agency, in the course of supervision shall determine that the child is at risk of harm or that the best interests of the child are not served by the child remaining in the home, the agency may apply to a court for removal of the child from the home. Whenever a person receives a child into his home for purposes other than adoption and it is later determined that an adoption shall be sought, a complaint for adoption shall be instituted with reasonable promptness following the determination. Failure to file the complaint in a timely manner shall not be a sole basis for refusal of the adoption but the failure shall require the filing, with the complaint, of an affidavit setting forth the reasons for the delay.

L.1977,c.367,s.8; amended 1993,c.345,s.7.


9:3-45 Notice of complaint to parents.

a. In an adoption proceeding pursuant to P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-37 et seq.), notice of the complaint may not be waived and a notice of hearing shall be served in accordance with the Rules of Court on each parent of the child to be adopted. The notice shall inform each parent of the purpose of the action and of the parent's right to file written objections to the adoption within 20 days after notice is given in the case of a resident and 35 days in the case of a nonresident. For purposes of this section, "parent" means (1) the husband of the mother of a child born or conceived during the marriage or (2) a putative or alleged biological mother or father of a child.

b. Notice pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall not be served on a parent:

(1)Who has executed a valid surrender to an approved agency pursuant to section 5 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-41) or P.L.1955, c.232 (C.9:2-13 et seq.);

(2)Whose parental rights have been terminated in a separate judicial proceeding by court order;

(3)Who has, prior to the placement of the child for adoption, received notice of the intention to place the child, which notice shall inform the parent of the purpose of the placement, that failure to respond to the notice will prevent the person receiving the notice from objecting to any future adoption of the child, and that the parent has a right to file with the surrogate in the county in which venue is anticipated to lie, the address of which surrogate shall be included in the notice, written objections to the proposed placement within 20 days after notice is given, in the case of a resident, and 35 days in the case of a nonresident; and who has either failed to file written objections or denied paternity or maternity of the child. Failure to respond to this notice and object to the placement of the child for adoption shall constitute a waiver of all notice of any subsequent proceedings with regard to the child including proceedings for adoption or termination of parental rights;

(4)Who has given the child for adoption to the adopting parent, and the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, after a hearing at which the surrendering parent was heard as to the voluntaries of the surrender, has determined that the surrender was voluntary and proper;

(5)Whose child has been made available for adoption in a foreign state or country if the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service has determined that the child has been approved for adoptive placement. The finding of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service shall be presumed valid and no notice shall be served ; or

(6)Who is presumed to be the biological father of the child who is the subject of the adoption proceeding pursuant to paragraph (2) of subsection a. of section 6 of P.L.1983, c.17 (C.9:17-43) but who, within 120 days of the birth of the child or prior to the date of the preliminary hearing, whichever occurs first, has not acknowledged paternity by amending the original birth certificate record filed with the local registrar's office in the municipality of birth of the child who is the subject of the adoption proceeding in accordance with birth record amendment procedures, or has not filed an action for paternity in court.

c.If personal service of the notice cannot be effected because the whereabouts of a birth parent of the child to be adopted are unknown, the court shall determine that an adequate effort has been made to serve notice upon the parent if the plaintiff immediately prior to or during the placement and not more than nine months prior to the filing of a complaint has:

(1)Sent the notice by regular mail and by certified mail return receipt requested, to the parent's last known address;

(2)Made a discreet inquiry as to the whereabouts of the missing parent among any known relations, friends and current or former employers of the parent;

(3)Unless otherwise restricted by law, made direct inquiries, using the party's name and last known or suspected address, to the local post office, the Division of Motor Vehicles, county welfare agency, the municipal police department, the Division of State Police, the county probation office, the Department of Corrections, and any social service and law enforcement agencies known to have had contact with the party, or the equivalents in other states, territories or countries. Failure to receive a response to the inquiries within 45 days shall be a negative response.

d.In any case where, within 120 days of the birth of the child or prior to the date of the preliminary hearing, whichever occurs first, the identity of a birth parent cannot be determined or where the known parent of a child is unable or refuses to identify the other parent, and the court is unable from other information before the court to identify the other parent, service on that parent shall be waived by the court.

e.In conducting the hearing required by paragraph (4) of subsection b. of this section, the court shall determine that the surrender is voluntary and that the birth parent knows (1) that the hearing is to surrender birth rights; (2) that the hearing is to permanently end the relationship and all contact between parent and child; (3) that such action is a relinquishment and termination of parental rights and consent on the part of the birth parent to the adoption; and (4) that no further notice of the adoption proceedings shall be provided to the birth parent if the surrender is accepted by the court.

L.1977,c.367,s.9; amended 1982, c.105, s.1; 1993, c.345, s.8; 1998, c.20, s.1.


9:3-45.1 Rules, regulations.

6.The Department of Children and Families, in consultation with the Department of Health and Senior Services, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), shall adopt rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this act and to publicize throughout the State the necessity for a father, within 120 days of the birth of a child or prior to the date of the preliminary hearing, whichever occurs first, to acknowledge paternity by amending the original birth certificate record with the local registrar's office in the municipality of birth of the child who is the subject of the adoption or by filing a paternity action in court in order to be entitled to notice of an adoption pursuant to section 9 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-45).

 

9:3-45.2 Resource family parent notice, opportunity to be heard.

In any case in which the Division of Youth and Family Services accepts a child in its care or custody, the child's resource family parent or relative providing care for the child, as applicable, shall receive written notice of and an opportunity to be heard at any review or hearing held with respect to the child, but the resource family parent or relative shall not be made a party to the review or hearing solely on the basis of the notice and opportunity to be heard.


9:3-46 Objection to adoption.

a. A person who is entitled to notice pursuant to section 9 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-45) shall have the right to object to the adoption of his child within 20 days after the filing of the complaint for adoption for a State resident and 35 days after the filing in the case of a nonresident. Failure to object within that time period constitutes a waiver of the right to object.

In a contest between a person who is entitled to notice pursuant to section 9 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-45) objecting to the adoption and the prospective adoptive parent, the standard shall be the best interest of the child. The best interest of a child requires that a parent affirmatively assume the duties encompassed by the role of being a parent. In determining whether a parent has affirmatively assumed the duties of a parent, the court shall consider, but is not limited to consideration of, the fulfillment of financial obligations for the birth and care of the child, demonstration of continued interest in the child, demonstration of a genuine effort to maintain communication with the child, and demonstration of the establishment and maintenance of a place of importance in the child's life.

A judgment of adoption shall be entered over an objection of a person who is entitled to notice pursuant to section 9 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-45) communicated to the court by personal appearance or by letter if the court finds, during the six-month period prior to the placement of the child for adoption or within 120 days after the birth of a child or prior to the date of the preliminary hearing, whichever occurs first, in the case of a child placed for adoption as a newborn infant:

(1)that the parent has substantially failed to perform the regular and expected parental functions of care and support of the child, although able to do so, or

(2)that the parent 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.

The regular and expected functions of care and support of a child shall include the following:

(a)the maintenance of a relationship with the child such that the child perceives the person as his parent;

(b)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 a social service agency over the birth parent's objection; or

(c)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.

A parent shall be presumed to have failed to perform the regular and expected parental functions of care and support of the child if the court finds that the situation set forth in paragraph (1) or (2) has occurred during the six-month period prior to the placement of the child for adoption, or within 120 days after the birth of a child or prior to the date of the preliminary hearing, whichever occurs first, in the case of a child placed for adoption as a newborn infant.

In the case where the objecting parent is incarcerated during the six-month period prior to placement of the child for adoption, relevant factors to be considered in determining whether that incarcerated parent has failed to perform the regular and expected parental functions or is unable to perform the regular and expected parental functions pursuant to this subsection, shall include the extent of the relationship which existed between the parent and child prior to incarceration, including financial support; the efforts made to continue a relationship during the incarceration; the ability to communicate and visit with the child during incarceration; and the effect of the communication and visitation on the child's development in terms of providing nurturing and emotional support.

b.The guardian of a child to be adopted who has not executed a surrender pursuant to section 5 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-41) and any other person who has provided primary care and supervision in his home for the child for a period of six months or one half of the life of the child, whichever is less, in the two years prior to the complaint shall be given notice of the action and in accordance with the Rules of Court shall have standing to object to the adoption, which objection shall be given due consideration by the court in determining whether the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption.

L.1977,c.367,s.10; amended 1993, c.345, s.9; 1997, c.299, s.10; 1998, c.20, s.2.


9:3-47 Action on complaint for adoption of child received from approved agency.

a. When the child to be adopted has been received from an approved agency, the prospective parent shall file with the court a complaint for adoption after the child has been in the home of the prospective parent for at least six months. In the discretion of the approved agency, a complaint may be filed prior to that time and the court may schedule a hearing to resolve all matters except finalization of the adoption. The adoption shall not be finalized under this section unless the child has been in the home of the adoptive parent for at least six months. The complaint shall be accompanied by a consent to the plaintiff's adoption of the child signed and acknowledged by an authorized officer or representative of the approved agency; except that failure or refusal on the part of the approved agency to give consent, or withdrawal of consent on the part of the approved agency, shall not preclude an action for adoption.

b.Upon the filing of the complaint, the court shall set a date for the adoption hearing not less than 10 nor more than 30 days from the date of institution of the action unless a longer period shall be required in order to obtain service of notice upon one or more of the people entitled thereto and shall order the approved agency concerned to file at least five days prior to the hearing a written report which shall describe the circumstances surrounding the surrender of the child and shall set forth the results of the agency's evaluation of the child, the plaintiff and any other person residing in the proposed adoptive home; and the agency's assessment of the care being received by the child and the adjustment of the child and the plaintiff as members of a family.

Upon the request of a surrogate and not more than 30 days prior to the hearing, the court shall conduct a search of the records of the central registry established pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1999, c.421 (C.2C:25-34) to determine whether a prospective adoptive parent or any member of the parent's household has:

(1)ad a domestic violence restraining order entered against them; or

(2)been charged with a violation of a court order involving domestic violence.

The court shall provide the results of the search to the surrogate for inclusion in the court's adoption file. If the results of the search contain any material findings or recommendations adverse to the plaintiff, the surrogate shall provide the material findings or recommendations to the approved agency.

If the agency's report contains or the results of the court's search of the central registry contain any material findings or recommendations adverse to the plaintiff, the agency shall serve a copy of that part of the agency's report or the results of the court's search upon the plaintiff at least five days prior to the hearing and the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child in the adoption proceeding if the court determines that a guardian is necessary to represent the best interests of the child. If the approved agency that placed the child with the plaintiff has not consented to the adoption, the court may appoint another approved agency to conduct an investigation and make recommendations in the matter. The appointment shall not deprive the placing agency of standing to appear at the hearing and contest the adoption. Personal appearance at the hearing by a representative of the approved agency conducting the investigation may be dispensed with by the court if the agency's report favors the adoption. If an appearance is required, the approved agency shall be entitled to present testimony and to cross-examine witnesses and shall be subject to cross-examination with respect to its report and recommendations in the matter. The appearance of the child to be adopted shall not be required unless ordered by the court or unless the inquiry pursuant to section 13 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-49) indicates that the child is opposed to the adoption.

c.The adoption hearing shall be held in camera. If a parent of the child has made an objection to the adoption, in accordance with section 10 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-46), the court shall take evidence relating to the objection. If the court finds against the objecting parent in accordance with subsection a. of section 10 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-46), it shall make an order terminating the parental rights of the parent and proceed with the hearing.

d.If, based upon the approved agency's report and the evidence presented at the hearing, the court is satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court shall enter a judgment of adoption. If, based upon the approved agency's report and the evidence presented at the hearing, the court is not satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court shall deny the adoption and make such further order concerning the custody and guardianship of the child as may be deemed proper in the circumstances.

 

9:3-48 Action on complaint for adoption of child not received from approved agency.

a. When the child to be adopted has not been received from an approved agency, the prospective parent shall file with the court a complaint for adoption. Upon receipt of the complaint, the court shall by its order:

(1)Declare the child to be a ward of the court and declare that the plaintiff shall have custody of the child subject to further order of the court;

(2)Appoint an approved agency to make an investigation and submit a written report to the court which shall include:

(a)the facts and circumstances surrounding the surrender of custody by the child's parents and the placement of the child in the home of the plaintiff, including the identity of any intermediary who participated in the placement of the child;

(b)an evaluation of the child and of the plaintiff and the spouse of the plaintiff if not the child's parent and any other person residing in the prospective home; and

(c)any fees, expenses or costs paid by or on behalf of the adopting parent in connection with the adoption.

The agency conducting the investigation shall, if it is able to, contact the birth parent and confirm that counseling, if required by section 18 of P.L.1993, c.345 (C.9:3-39.1), has either been provided or waived by the birth parent. If not previously provided, the agency shall advise the parent of the availability of such counseling through the agency and shall provide such counseling if requested by the birth parent or if the birth parent resides out of State or out of the country, such counseling should be made available by or through an agency approved to provide such counseling in the birth parent's state or country of domicile. The agency shall further confirm that the birth parent has been advised that the decision of the birth parent not to place the child for adoption or the return of the child to the birth parent can not be conditioned upon the repayment of expenses by the birth parent to the adoptive parent.

All expenses and fees for the investigation and any counseling provided shall be the responsibility of the plaintiff;

(3)Direct the plaintiff to cooperate with the approved agency making the investigation and report;

(4)Fix a day for a preliminary hearing not less than two or more than three months from the date of the filing of the complaint; except that the hearing may be accelerated upon the application of the approved agency and upon notice to the plaintiff if the agency determines that removal of the child from the plaintiff's home is required, in which case the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child at all future proceedings regarding the adoption.

Whenever the plaintiff is a stepparent of the child, the court, in its discretion, may dispense with the agency investigation and report and take direct evidence at the preliminary hearing of the facts and circumstances surrounding the filing of the complaint for adoption.

Whenever a plaintiff is a brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or birth father of the child, the order may limit the investigation to an inquiry concerning the status of the parents of the child and an evaluation of the plaintiff. At least 10 days prior to the day fixed for the preliminary hearing the approved agency shall file its report with the court and serve a copy on the plaintiff; and

(5)Conduct a search of the records of the central registry established pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1999, c.421 (C.2C:25-34), upon the request of a surrogate and not more than 30 days prior to the preliminary hearing, to determine whether a prospective adoptive parent or any member of the parent's household has:

(a)had a domestic violence restraining order entered against them; or

(b)been charged with a violation of a court order involving domestic violence.

The court shall provide the results of the search to the surrogate for inclusion in the court's adoption file. If the results of the search contain any material findings or recommendations adverse to the plaintiff, the surrogate shall provide the material findings or recommendations to the approved agency.

In a case in which the plaintiff is a stepparent of the child and the court dispenses with the agency investigation and report pursuant to paragraph (4) of this subsection and the results of the court's search contain any material findings or recommendations adverse to the plaintiff, the surrogate shall serve a copy of that part of the results of the search upon the plaintiff at least five days prior to the preliminary hearing.

b.The preliminary hearing shall be in camera and shall have for its purpose the determination of the circumstances under which the child was relinquished by his parents and received into the home of the plaintiff, the status of the parental rights of the parents, the fitness of the child for adoption and the fitness of the plaintiff to adopt the child and to provide a suitable home. If the report of the approved agency pursuant to subsection a. of this section contains or the results of the search of the central registry contain material findings or recommendations adverse to the plaintiff, the presence of a representative of the approved agency who has personal knowledge of the investigation shall be required at the preliminary hearing. If in the course of the preliminary hearing the court determines that there is lack of jurisdiction, lack of qualification on the part of the plaintiff or that the best interests of the child would not be promoted by the adoption, the court shall deny the adoption and make such further order concerning the custody and guardianship of the child as may be deemed proper in the circumstances.

c.If upon completion of the preliminary hearing the court finds that:

(1)The parents of the child do not have rights as to custody of the child by reason of their rights previously having been terminated by court order; or, the parents' objection has been contravened pursuant to subsection a. of section 10 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-46);

(2)The guardian, if any, should have no further control or authority over the child;

(3)The child is fit for adoption; and

(4)The plaintiff is fit to adopt the child, the court shall: (a) issue an order stating its findings, declaring that no parent or guardian of the child has a right to custody or guardianship of the child; (b) terminate the parental rights of that person, which order shall be a final order; (c) fix a date for final hearing not less than six nor more than nine months from the date of the preliminary hearing; and (d) appoint an approved agency to supervise and evaluate the continuing placement in accordance with subsection d. of this section. If the plaintiff is a brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, birth father, stepparent or resource family parent of the child, or if the child has been in the home of the plaintiff for at least two years immediately preceding the commencement of the adoption action, and if the court is satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court may dispense with this evaluation and final hearing and enter a judgment of adoption immediately upon completion of the preliminary hearing.

d.The approved agency appointed pursuant to subsection c. of this section shall from time to time visit the home of the plaintiff and make such further inquiry as may be necessary to observe and evaluate the care being received by the child and the adjustment of the child and the plaintiff as members of a family. At least 15 days prior to the final hearing the approved agency shall file with the court a written report of its findings, including a recommendation concerning the adoption, and shall mail a copy of the report to the plaintiff.

If at any time following the preliminary hearing the approved agency concludes that the best interests of the child would not be promoted by the adoption, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child and after a hearing held upon the application of the approved agency and upon notice to the plaintiff, may modify or revoke any order entered in the action and make such further order concerning the custody and guardianship of the child as may be deemed proper in the circumstances.

e.At the final hearing the court shall proceed in camera; except that if the approved agency in its report pursuant to subsection d. of this section has recommended that the adoption be granted, the final hearing may be dispensed with and, if the court is satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, a judgment of adoption may be entered immediately.

The appearance of the approved agency at the final hearing shall not be required unless its recommendations are adverse to the plaintiff or unless ordered by the court. If its appearance is required, the approved agency shall be entitled to present testimony and to cross-examine witnesses and shall be subject to cross-examination with respect to its report and recommendations in the matter.

f.If, based upon the report and the evidence presented, the court is satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court shall enter a judgment of adoption. If, based upon the evidence, the court is not satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court shall deny the adoption and make such further order concerning the custody and guardianship of the child as may be deemed proper in the circumstances.



9:3-49. Age 10 or older, hearing appearance, child's wishes
13. If the child sought to be adopted is of the age of 10 years or over, the appearance of the child shall be required at the final adoption hearing, unless waived by the court for good cause shown, and the child's wishes concerning the adoption shall be solicited by the court and given consideration if the child is of sufficient capacity to form an intelligent preference regarding the adoption.

L.1977,c.367,s.13; amended 1993,c.345,s.12.


9:3-50. Entry of judgment of adoption, effect; inheritance rights
a. (Deleted by amendment, P.L.1993, c.345).
b. The entry of a judgment of adoption shall establish the same relationships, rights, and responsibilities between the child and the adopting parent as if the child were born to the adopting parent in lawful wedlock. For good cause, the court may direct the entry of judgment nunc pro tunc as of the date the action was instituted. In applying the intestate laws of this State, an adopted child shall have the same rights of inheritance as if born to the adopting parent in lawful wedlock.
c. The entry of a judgment of adoption shall:
(1) terminate all parental rights and responsibilities of the parent towards the adoptive child except for a parent who is the spouse of the petitioner and except those rights that have vested prior to entry of the judgment of adoption;

(2) terminate all rights of inheritance under intestacy from or through the parent unless that parent is the spouse of the petitioner or that parent or other relative had died prior to the judgment of adoption; and

(3) terminate all rights of inheritance under intestacy from or through the child which existed prior to the adoption.

d. The court may order counseling for the adopting parents.

9:3-51. Judgments of adoption; records
15. The clerk of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part shall promptly file all judgments of adoption and shall maintain an alphabetical index of all judgments of adoption entered each year pursuant to P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-37 et seq.), all of which records shall be sealed and thereafter shall be made accessible only by court order.

L.1977,c.367,s.15; amended 1991,c.91,s.194; 1993,c.345,s.14.


9:3-52. Records of proceedings
16. a. All records of proceedings relating to adoption, including the complaint, judgment and all petitions, affidavits, testimony, reports, briefs, orders and other relevant documents, shall be filed under seal by the clerk of the court and shall at no time be open to inspection or copying unless the court, upon good cause shown, shall otherwise order. An index to all adoption proceedings shall be maintained by the clerk of the court, but no index of adoption proceedings shall be open to inspection or copying or be made public except upon order of the court.

b. Upon entry of a judgment of adoption, the clerk of the court shall certify to the State Registrar, any successor agency or any similar agency in the State or country of the child's birth, the date of entry of the judgment, the names of the adopting parent or parents, the name of the child, the date and place of birth of the child and the new name of the child if changed by the judgment of adoption.

L.1977,c.367,s.16; amended 1993,c.345,s.15.


9:3-53. Costs of proceedings
17. The costs of all proceedings pursuant to P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-37 et seq.) shall be borne by the plaintiff, including the costs incurred by an approved agency acting pursuant to an order of the court; except that the approved agency may waive part or all costs. Payment of costs shall not be a condition precedent to entry of judgment. The costs shall not include the provision of counsel for any person, other than the plaintiff, entitled to the appointment of counsel pursuant to P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-37 et seq.).

L.1977,c.367,s.17; amended 1993,c.345,s.16.

9:3-54. Repealed by L. 1993, c. 345, § 20, eff. April 27, 1994


9:3-54.1. Rules, regulations
The Commissioner of Children and Families shall, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410
(C.52:14B-1 et seq.), adopt rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this act [C.9:3-38 et al.].


9:3-54.2 Home study; fingerprint and criminal data.

a. (1) In addition to meeting the other requirements established by the Department of Human Services, a home study completed by an approved agency shall include a recommendation regarding the suitability of the home for the placement of a child based upon the results of State and federal criminal history record checks for each prospective adoptive parent and each adult residing in the home.

For the purposes of this section, the federal criminal history record check conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the federal Department of Justice on a prospective adoptive parent shall be valid for the prospective adoptive parent in fulfilling the home study requirement for the State.

(2) Each prospective adoptive parent and each member of the prospective adoptive parent's household, age 18 or older, shall submit to the approved agency standard fingerprint cards containing his name, address and fingerprints taken by a State or municipal law enforcement agency.

(3) The cost of all criminal history record checks conducted pursuant to this section shall be paid by the prospective adoptive parent or household member at the time the fingerprint cards are submitted.

(4) The approved agency shall forward the fingerprint cards and payment to the commissioner.

(5) The commissioner is authorized to exchange fingerprint data and receive criminal history record information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Division of State Police for use in making the recommendations provided for in this section.

(6) The department shall advise the approved agency of information received from State and federal criminal history record checks based upon the fingerprints submitted by the agency. Information provided to the approved agency shall be confidential and not disclosed by the approved agency to any individual or entity without the written permission of the person who is the subject of the record check.

(7) The commissioner shall adopt regulations for the use of criminal history record information by approved agencies when determining the suitability of a home for the placement of a child for the purposes of adoption.

b. (1) Beginning one year after the effective date of this act, a home study completed by an approved agency shall include a recommendation regarding the suitability of the home for the placement of the child based upon a check for any records which might reveal a history of child abuse or neglect by the proposed adoptive parent or member of the parent's household who is 18 years of age or older.

(2) Beginning one year after the effective date, at the request of an approved agency, the commissioner or his designee shall conduct a search of the records of the Division of Youth and Family Services regarding referrals of dispositions of child abuse or neglect matters as to the proposed adoptive parent and any member of the parent's household 18 years of age or older, and, if there is information that would raise a question of the suitability of the proposed adoptive parent or member of the parent's household to have guardianship of a child, shall provide that information to the approved agency for its consideration. Information provided to the approved agency pursuant to this paragraph shall be confidential. The commissioner shall establish penalties for disclosure of this confidential information.



9:3-55 Report of prospective parents.

a. A prospective parent who is not a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, resource family parent, birth father or stepparent of the child to be adopted shall file before the complaint is heard, in accordance with court rules, a detailed report which shall be signed and verified by each prospective parent and shall disclose all sums of money or other valuable consideration paid, given or agreed to be given to any person, firm, partnership, corporation, association or agency by or on behalf of the prospective parent in connection with the adoption, and the names and addresses of each person, firm, partnership, corporation, association or agency to whom the consideration was given or promised. The report, a copy of which shall be provided to the approved agency pursuant to section 11 or 12 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-47 or C.9:3-48), shall include but not be limited to expenses incurred or to be incurred by or on behalf of a prospective parent in connection with:

(1)The birth of the child;

(2)The placement for adoption of the child with the prospective parent;

(3)Medical or hospital care received by the mother or the child during the mother's pre- and postnatal period; and

(4)Services relating to the adoption or to the placement for adoption, including legal services, which were rendered or are to be rendered to or for the benefit of the prospective parent, either parent of the child or any other person or agency.

b. Whenever based upon a report filed pursuant to this section it appears to the court that any person may have violated section 18 of P.L.1993, c.345 (C.9:3-39.1) the court or the division may refer the matter to the appropriate county prosecutor.


9:3-56. Severability
If any provision of this act, or any application of any provision, is held invalid, the invalidity shall not affect other applications of the provision, or other provisions of the act, which reasonably can be given effect despite the invalidity.  To this end, the provisions of this act are declared severable.

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