The Sussex County Surrogate acts as the Clerk of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, for all adoptions. This office is responsible for reviewing and filing all Complaints, with all supporting papers, including Orders Fixing Date for Hearing and Final Judgment for Adoption. We ensure that the necessary procedural requirements of the New Jersey Statutes and New Jersey Court Rules are met and the scheduling of a court date is done in a timely manner.
TYPES OF ADOPTIONS
Adult Adoption: The adult to be adopted has requested the adoption and, if desired, the change of name. The adopting parent(s) must be at least 10 years older than the adult being adopted.
Agency Adoption: The child to be adopted is in the custody and control of an approved agency.
Foreign Adoption: The foreign child to be adopted is in the custody and control of an approved agency.
Foreign Re-Adoption: The foreign child has been adopted in a foreign country before a Judge and re-adopted in this country, thereby creating a paper trail, as well as a New Jersey birth certificate.
Private Adoption: The child to be adopted has not been received from an approved agency but from a birth mother.
Relative Adoption: The child to be adopted was not received from an agency, but the adoptive parent(s) are brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle or birth father.
Stepparent Adoption: The child to be adopted is the natural child of the plaintiff's spouse.
Adoption papers may be filed with the Surrogate in one of the following:
1. The County in which the adopting parents reside;
2. The County where the child resided immediately prior to the placement for adoption;
3. If the child is less than three months of age, the County in which the child was born;
4. 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.
When filing an Adoption, the fee is $175.00. Payment may be made by cash or a check made out to the Sussex County Surrogate. This office does not accept credit cards.
The birth certificate will be amended after the Finalization of the Adoption. The Report of Adoption form and a check for $27.00 made out to Vital Statistics and can be submitted prior to the hearing date. Additional birth certificates are $2.00 each.
UNSEALING ADOPTION FILES
Our office often receives requests for information regarding prior adoptions. These requests are usually made by the adopted child who either wants to locate their natural parents or needs a copy of their Adoption Decree to prove their identity. All adoption files are maintained by the Surrogate under seal (N.J.S.A. 9:3-52). An adoption file, or even part of an adoption file, cannot be unsealed by the Surrogate without a Court Order signed by a Superior Court Judge. The Surrogate's office can only advise you of the procedure and cost of petitioning the Court to break the seal on the adoption file.
Before the filing of a Verified Complaint for Adoption, which begins the legal process with our office, a child may be required to be in the adoptive home for a period of time. In an Agency Adoption (domestic and foreign), the child must be in the adoptive home for at least six months. With Private Placement, Relative and Stepparent Adoptions, the Complaint may be filed within 45 days after receiving the child into the adoptive home. With a Foreign Re-Adoption, the Complaint can be filed upon the approval of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In the case of an Adult Adoption, there is no waiting time.
After the Complaint is filed, a hearing date is set. For an Agency Adoption, the statute requires the hearing to take place no less than 10 days and no more than 30 days from the filing of the Complaint. For a Stepparent, Relative, or Private Adoption, the statute requires a waiting time of no less than 60 days and no more than 90 days from the filing of the Complaint. The finalization of a Private Adoption requires a waiting period of 6 months after a preliminary hearing. There is no similar statutory requirement for an Adult Adoption.
SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR STEPPARENT ADOPTION
At the time of the filing of the Verified Complaint in a Stepparent Adoption, there are many other documents that must be filed along with the pleadings. These include Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) fingerprint background checks, Child Abuse Record Information (CARI), and Domestic Violence Registry Check (D.V.C). The clearances must be less than 12 months old at the time of the filing of the Complaint. All of these checks must be performed on the Stepparent and on all persons residing in the adoptive applicant's home who are 18 years of age or older, except the natural parent.
3 High Street, Suite 1, Newton, New Jersey 07860 (In the Historic Sussex County Court House) Phone (973)579-0920 Fax (973)579-0909
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