For LGBTQ couples where one partner is already parent to a child, the other partner may be able to adopt the child through a process called “second-parent adoption.” This procedure is available for both same-sex or opposite-sex couples, where one partner is a natural parent or has already adopted a child as a single parent. It is desired for the other partner to gain legal status as a parent.
Second-parent adoptions can be carried out regardless of marital status. In situations where both partners or spouses wish to adopt a child, options in New Jersey for welcoming a child into your family include:
- Private adoption. Many private licensed adoption agencies in New Jersey are friendly to gay and lesbian individuals who wish to become parents either on their own or with a partner. The all-children, all-family initiative of the human rights campaign maintains a list of agencies that have met or are seeking to meet 10 benchmarks in LGBTQ cultural competency. With private agency adoption a child is generally placed in the home for six months before an adoption hearing is scheduled.
- Private placement adoption. In a direct adoption from birth parents, the adoptive parents must file a complaint for option within 45 days of receiving the child. The parental rights of the birth parents are generally not terminated until a preliminary hearing two or three months later.
- State agency adoption. The New Jersey office of adoption operations is within the Department of Children and Families, Child Protection and Permanency. The agency works to connect children from the state’s foster care and child welfare system with loving adoptive parents. As a state agency, DCS does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Bari Zell Weinberger is the owner and managing partner of Weinberger Law Group in New Jersey. She is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney.