Although adoption actions are within the allocation of the New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part the filing of the papers is with the Surrogate of the county of venue.
The county of venue is
- The county in which the prospective parents reside; or
- 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;
- 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.
There are eight recognized types of adoptions:
Adult – 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 adoptee
Agency – the child to be adopted is in the custody and control of an approved agency
Foreign Agency – the foreign child to be adopted is in the custody and control of an approved agency
Foreign Private – the foreign child to be adopted has not been received from an approved agency but the approved agency oversees and coordinates placement
Foreign Re-Adoption – the foreign child has been adopted in a foreign country before a Judge or Notary
Private – the child to be adopted has not been received from an approved agency
Relative – the child has not been received from an approved agency but the adoptive parent is a brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle or birth father
Step-Parent – the child to be adopted is the natural or adopted child of the plaintiff’s spouse
The Surrogate, as Clerk of Court, is responsible for reviewing and filing the Complaint for Adoption, Order Fixing Date for Hearing and Final Judgment for Adoption. These papers must meet the procedural requirement of the New Jersey Court Rules (R.5:10) or (R.5:11) and New Jersey Statutes. If the pleadings are deficient it is the Surrogate’s responsibility to contact the plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney and advise of corrections. Only when the pleadings meet the requirements will the Surrogate schedule the matter for a hearing before the Superior Court.
The complaint cannot be filed with the Surrogate’s Court until a child has been in the adoptive home a prescribed length of time. The time varies with the type of adoption. In the case of an Adult adoption this wait is not applicable. In Agency and Foreign Agency the child must be in the adoptive home at least six months. For Foreign Private, Private, Relative and Step-Parent the complaint must be filed within 45 days after receipt of the child into the adoptive home. In Foreign Re-adoption it is upon INS approval.
Depending on the type of adoption being filed with the Surrogate, there are many other documents that must be filed with the pleadings. These may include agency reports, State and Federal Fingerprint Report (CHRI), Child Abuse Registry (CARI), medical information forms, consents and surrenders, Amended Certificate of Birth to Vital Statistics, Affidavit, and Immigration documents (INS).
The filing fee for an adoption is $ 175.00 plus $ 5.00 for each additional Judgment.
The Surrogate’s Court often receives requests for information regarding prior adoptions. The requests are usually made by the adopted child who wants to locate natural parents. 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 Superior Court order signed by a Superior Court judge. The Surrogate can only advise as to procedure and cost involved in petitioning the Superior Court to unseal an adoption file.