How to Adopt Your Stepchild in New Jersey: 3 Things You Must Know

New Jersey adoptions can be full of long processes and requirements, yet when adopting your stepchild, the process is not always that extensive. Many stepparents fall in love with their stepchildren and wish to adopt them as their own. So how do you adopt your stepchild in New Jersey?

To adopt a stepchild in New Jersey, the stepparent wishing to adopt must obtain stepchild adoption court forms, often available at the local courthouse, or may be purchased online from a court form service. If the biological parent is contest the adoption, then hiring a lawyer is strongly encouraged.

adopting a stepchild in New Jersey

Stepparents in New Jersey may want to adopt their stepchildren for a variety of reasons. For example, to establish a legal parent-child relationship and secure legal obligations.

This includes providing for the child’s financial support and the right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, and medical care.

Adoption can also give the child and stepparent emotional and psychological advantages, such as a feeling of permanence and stability within the family.

Additionally, adoption can strengthen the family unit and provide the child with a sense of belonging.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in New Jersey

To adopt your stepchild in New Jersey you can either hire a lawyer, visit your local courthouse and ask if they provide stepchild adoption court form packets, or purchase court forms through a service that specializes in stepchild adoption court forms.

Hire an Adoption Lawyer

Adopting a stepchild is not legally needed to have legal representation in New Jersey. However, because the adoption process can be complicated and there are numerous legal requirements that must be completed, it is vital to take hiring a lawyer into consideration.

A lawyer may assist in making sure that the adoption is conducted completely and that all required documentation is filled out and filed correctly.

If any problems emerge throughout the adoption procedure, an attorney can help the stepparent navigate the legal system and represent them in court.

They can also offer advice on any legal problems or difficulties that may emerge throughout the adoption process, such as how to get the non-custodial parent’s consent or handle any objections to the adoption.

A lawyer can also assist in providing advice on the potential outcome of the adoption procedure and in assisting the stepparent in understanding their legal rights and obligations as an adoptive parent.

They may also assist the stepparent in understanding the legal ramifications of the adoption on the rights and advantages of the child.

Even if hiring a lawyer is not legally necessary in New Jersey for stepchild adoption, it is nevertheless advisable to do so since it can help to ensure that the procedure is completed correctly and efficiently, which can be advantageous for all parties involved.

Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in New Jersey.

Visit Your Local Courthouse

Stepparents in New Jersey who want to adopt their stepchild may inquire about court form packets at their regional courthouse. All of the paperwork needed for the adoption procedure is often included in these packets, along with instructions on how to complete it and submit it to the court.

Stepparents can learn about the necessary paperwork and specifications for the adoption procedure and gain an understanding of the steps they must follow to formally adopt their stepchild by visiting their local courthouse.

Be aware, however, that not all courthouses provide court forms.

While getting court form packets from the neighborhood courthouse might be a helpful tool, it should be noted that it is not a replacement for legal counsel.

Stepparents should still think about hiring a lawyer to make sure they understand their rights and obligations as adoptive parents and to make sure the adoption procedure is carried out properly.

Find a local New Jersey courthouse near you.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In New Jersey, a stepparent who wants to adopt their stepchild can get the necessary paperwork through a service. You can find these services by searching the internet for “stepparent adoption forms,” and they often offer the necessary paperwork and guidance for the adoption procedure.

The forms stepparents need to complete the adoption process in their state can be obtained from these agencies, making them a valuable resource.

These services do offer court forms, but they cannot and will not offer legal counsel.

Stepparents should still think about hiring a lawyer to make sure they understand their rights and obligations as adoptive parents and to make sure the adoption procedure is carried out properly.

If any problems emerge throughout the adoption process, a lawyer can assist in navigating the legal system and defend the stepparent in court.

They can also offer advice on any legal problems or difficulties that may emerge throughout the adoption process, such as how to get the non-custodial parent’s consent or handle any objections to the adoption.

Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in New Jersey.

Adoption Process

Stepparents in New Jersey who want to adopt their stepchildren must go through a number of stages, including submitting an adoption petition, conducting a home study and background check, getting the biological parent’s permission, and finalizing the adoption.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

In New Jersey, the stepparent adoption procedure begins with the filing of the petition for adoption. The stepparent is required to submit an adoption petition to the county court where they or the child resides.

The petition must detail the relationship between the stepparent and the child as well as the stepparent’s and the child’s names and addresses.

In addition, the stepparent must indicate how long they have shared a home with the child and why they want to adopt them.

The stepparent’s signature and notarization are required on the petition. Additionally, it needs to be accompanied by a filing fee, which varies by county.

The court will then give the petition a case number and set a hearing date.

If the biological parent is neither the custodial parent nor not married to the stepparent, the petition must also include their approval.

Sometimes the biological parent willfully relinquishes their parental rights by signing legal paperwork.

In other situations, if the biological parent has abandoned the child or is found to be an unfit parent, the court may cancel their parental rights.

The adoption petition must be accurate, comprehensive, and include all necessary paperwork.

The court has the right to reject the petition or request more evidence if any mistakes or omissions are discovered.

Home Study and Background Check

Stepparent adoption in New Jersey involves several important processes, including a home study and background check. They are made to make sure the stepparent is a good parent for the child and that the child will be safe while in their custody.

House study

To make sure the stepparents’ home and family are safe and suitable settings for the child, a home study is conducted. The stepparent and the child are interviewed as well as the stepparent’s home is visited as part of the home study.

The social worker performing the home study will evaluate the family’s living circumstances, mental and physical health, and relationships with the child’s stepparent.

Additionally, they will look into the stepparent’s criminal history and confirm that they have the money and space necessary to care for the child.

Background Check

To make sure the stepparent is not a felon or has any other difficulties that might prevent them from being a good parent, a background check is also conducted.

The stepparent’s criminal background, child abuse registry, and sex offender register will all be checked as part of this investigation.

A licensed social worker or a state agency normally conducts the home study and background check.

After the stepparent submits the petition for adoption and before the final adoption hearing, they will be finished.

Consent of the Biological Parent

In New Jersey, obtaining the biological parent’s consent is a crucial stage in the stepparent adoption procedure. For the stepparent to adopt the child, the child’s biological parent must approve of the adoption.

It is necessary to seek the consent of the biological parent if they are not the custodial parent or are not married to the stepparent.

The court may mandate the termination of the biological parent’s rights if they have abandoned the child or are found to be unfit parents, or the biological parent may consent willingly by signing paperwork.

It is significant to remember that before the adoption may be legally finalized and the final hearing held, the biological parent’s approval must be sought.

The court will not approve the adoption and the process will be put on hold if the biological parent does not agree to it.

It can be difficult to get the biological parent’s approval, and legal action may be taken to revoke the biological parent’s rights or get their approval.

To make sure the process is done appropriately and to understand the legal rights and obligations of the biological parent and the stepparent, it is advisable to speak with a lawyer.

In some situations, it may be challenging to find the biological parent or they may decline to grant their approval.

In these circumstances, the stepparent might need legal counsel to guide them through the court system and present proof to the judge that the biological parent has abandoned the child or is an unsuitable parent.

Biological parents still have the right to be informed of the adoption proceedings and to attend the final adoption hearing even if their rights to raise their child are terminated or they consent to the adoption.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

When the biological parent is not the custodial parent or they are not married to the stepparent, a legal procedure known as “Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights” is applied.

Before the stepparent can adopt the child, the biological parent’s legal rights and obligations toward the child must be terminated as part of the adoption procedure.

Only if the court decides that doing so is in the child’s best interest will it suspend a biological parent’s rights.

This typically occurs when one or both biological parents have abandoned the child, are unable or unwilling to care for the child, or are declared unfit parents.

If the biological parent consents to it freely, the court may also revoke their parental rights. This is accomplished by completing a surrender or consent to adoption document.

Be aware that terminating a biological parent’s parental rights is a serious matter with potential long-term repercussions for both the biological parent and the child.

The child’s biological parent will no longer be able to make decisions for the child, see them, or contact them.

They will also lose all legal rights and obligations toward the child.

To ensure that the process is carried out properly and that the rights of the biological parent and the stepparent are understood, it is advisable to speak with an attorney.

In some situations, the biological parent may protest the end of their parental rights, and a court dispute may result.

Finalization of the Adoption

The last step in the stepparent adoption procedure in New Jersey is the finalization of the adoption. The stepparent becomes the child’s legal parent as a result of the court’s formal approval of the adoption.

At the final adoption hearing, the adoption is usually finalized. This hearing usually takes place a few months after the adoption petition is submitted.

The judge will look through the case and confirm that all adoption requirements have been completed during the hearing.

The stepparent, the child, and any other interested parties will also be heard by the judge.

The stepparent will be questioned by the judge regarding their home investigation, background investigation, and the welfare of the child.

The court will also inquire about the child’s comfort level and understanding of the adoption.

Any complaints or issues brought by other parties about the adoption will also be taken into account by the judge.

The judge will approve the adoption if they are convinced that it is in the child’s best interests.

The child will have the same legal parental rights and obligations as a biological child after the adoption is approved, making the stepparent the child’s legal parent.

The stepparent will also be legally able to make decisions for the child, including decisions about their education and medical care.

Finalizing the adoption might be a difficult procedure, so it’s recommended to speak with a lawyer to make sure everything is done properly.

Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.

Should I Adopt My Stepchild?

A part of life is that many parents find themselves remarried with stepchildren. You may be asking yourself, should I adopt my stepchild?

You should adopt your stepchild if you are prepared for a lifelong commitment. Adoption is permanent, and you cannot change your mind should you and your spouse later decide to divorce. If you are prepared to love and honor your commitment to your adopted stepchild, you should adopt your stepchild.

If you are considering adopting your stepchild or stepchildren, there are some things you will want to think about before taking the plunge.

It is safe to assume that you love your stepchild, so let’s go over some things to make sure you have covered all your bases.

It is important to remember that adopting your stepchild is a lifelong commitment. You may have a very good marriage now, but even good marriages can turn rocky.

At the beginning of a new marriage, you are in love and over the moon with happiness. Having romantic ideas of how the family dynamics will be is normal and sets a positive path forward.

Just know that you cannot simply change your mind about the adoption down the road if your marriage does not work out.

If you are unwilling to continue the parent/child relationship if your marriage goes south, then you should not adopt your stepchild.

Should the marriage end in divorce, you will still need to have cordial communications with the child’s other parent to co-parent your child.

Other things to consider would be if your marriage ended in divorce, you would be financially responsible for half of the expense of raising the child.

After a divorce, you would still be tied to your spouse for life, as you would both have a child together. Until the child turns 18 years of age, there will still be periods when the child resides with you.

No one wants to think about the possibility of divorce when things feel so right. Statistically, however, about half of all marriages end in divorce.

If you are not willing to make a lifelong commitment to a child, then you should not adopt the child.

Providing you do decide to proceed with the adoption of your stepchild, keep in mind that there are things you will want and need to do afterward to tie up any loose ends.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt My Stepchild?

It’s a common question, do you need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild?

You do not need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild. Visit your local courthouse to acquire the required court forms and a list of requirements. Although you are not required to have an attorney to adopt your stepchild, hiring an attorney for any life-changing event is highly recommended.

You most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild, as the process is a bit less complicated than other types of adoption.

For an adoption attorney near you, visit

Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in New Jersey

Attorneys are nice to have and can do the leg work for you, but you most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild.

If you are feeling a bit lost and want more information on starting your adoption journey, you may want to visit New Jersey Adoption Requirements: Complete Guide.

Just keep in mind that many of the requirements will not apply to you if you are already residing with your stepchild.

Providing there is no anticipated legal battle from one of the biological parents, then one would be encouraged to obtain the court forms from your local courthouse, usually available to download online.

You may also wish to contact your local Department of Human Resources to speak to someone about how to process your adoption petition or reach out to your local courthouse.

Most courthouses have what is called a facilitator who helps guide you in the steps you need to take to complete legal processes without a lawyer.

Stepparent Adoption Contested by Biological Parent

Adopting a stepchild involves obtaining the permission of both biological parents. You will need the blessing of your spouse as well as the other parent.

How will the biological parent feel about the idea of a stepparent wanting to adopt their child? This depends on the relationship between the biological parent and the child.

There are times when the other parent will voluntarily terminate their rights to their child. Perhaps there is very little relationship between the parent and child.

If the stepparent has taken on the active parenting role, and if the biological parent recognizes their lack of involvement, they may agree to know the adoption decision is in the best interest of their child.

When the biological parent’s rights are terminated, it also frees them from court-ordered financial obligations. Sadly, this can be a huge motivating factor for some biological parents to voluntarily terminate their rights to their children.

What do you do, though, if the biological parent refuses to give permission and contests the adoption? States will almost always only allow two parents to have parental rights to a child.

However, there have been a few cases where the courts have allowed three parents.

States are required to take the parental rights of the biological parent very seriously and will only terminate their parental rights if the parent is proven to be unfit, is not the true biological parent, or has in essence abandoned the child.

A parent can be found to be unfit for several reasons. Examples of an unfit parent can be things like being abusive or neglectful. Are they incarcerated or have they been incarcerated?

Is the biological parent’s home environment safe for this child? What type of people do they hang out with and have visited their home? Many things can deem a parent unfit.

For a parent to be accused of parental abandonment, the parent must not have spent any time with the child or paid child support in a very long time, usually a year.

If there is a question of paternity and it can be proven through the court system that the “biological” parent is not the parent, after all, that opens the door for adoption possibilities.

However, the rights tend to be placed with the biological parent, so that can be a tricky scenario.

Telling a Child Their Stepparent is Adopting Them

Depending on the age of this child being adopted, you will most certainly be excited to tell them the good news! In some states, a child over a certain age will need to permit to be adopted.

Not telling the child they are being adopted by the stepparent can create mistrust and hurt down the road, so think twice if you were planning on not telling them until later.

I strongly encourage you to not keep the adoption hidden from the child or children. Allow them the opportunity to be excited about being adopted! Involve them in the process and celebrate!

And hats off to you if you are a stepparent considering adopting your stepchild. It takes a huge heart and unconditional love to adopt a child that is not biologically yours.

And when you are helping raise a child, you are already a huge part of their life whether you make it official or not.

What are the Home Study Requirements for Stepparent Adoptions in New Jersey?

Prior to permitting an adoption to take place, a home study or home study is a screening of the home and lives of potential adoptive parents.

A home study is needed by legislation in some countries, as well as in all international adoptions. Even though it isn’t legally needed, an adoption agency may insist on it.

If you have been married and living with your stepchild for some length of time, you may request to have the home study waived.

Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in New Jersey?

A child who is twelve (12) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in New Jersey. Younger children are not required to give their consent.

You are encouraged to proceed with a stepparent adoption during a time when your stepchild will react favorably to knowing you are adopting them.

Important to remember when planning to adopt your stepchild is that it is likely your stepchild has been through quite a lot.

Absent biological parents not voluntarily involved in their child’s life can be a painful emotion to live with for your stepchild.

Another thing to consider is the timing of the stepparent adoption. Was there a divorce previous to your marriage with your stepchild’s parent that your stepchild is still reeling from?

Children often suffer emotionally from the loss of a biological parent. Even a marriage viewed as a positive step forward takes time for a child to adjust to. Consider letting the dust settle between major life events.

Can a Child Be Adopted Without the Father’s Consent in New Jersey?

Under citation code Ann. Stat. §§ 9:3-41; 9:3-45, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of New Jersey involves the following.

The child may be surrendered for adoption by:

  • The parent or guardian of the child

Notice of an adoption proceeding shall not be served on a parent:

  • Who has executed a valid surrender to an approved agency
  • Whose parental rights have been terminated in a separate judicial proceeding
  • Who has, prior to the placement of the child for adoption, received notice of the intention to place the child and who has either failed to file written objections or denied paternity or maternity of the child
  • Who has given the child for adoption to the adopting parent, and the court has determined that the surrender was voluntary and proper
  • Whose child has been made available for adoption in a foreign state or country if the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has determined that the child has been approved for adoptive placement
  • Who is presumed to be the biological father of the child 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

Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina is a seasoned writer, content creator, and website owner with a passion for unbiased research, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.