If you are an LGBT individual or couple interested in adding to your family through adoption or assisted reproduction, we can help you understand your rights and guide you through the appropriate process. If you are already a New Jersey LGBT parent, or if you are parenting a child who is the biological or adopted child of your same-sex partner, we can help ensure that your parental rights are protected.
LGBT Parental Rights and Responsibilities in New Jersey
Many same-sex couples adopt children. Others choose to have children through some form of assisted reproduction. If you are interested in adding to your family, or in ensuring that you have parental rights to a child that is not your biological offspring, you may be interested in one or more of the following:
There are many options available for New Jersey parents who wish to pursue adoption, including adopting from a state or private agency or pursuing a private placement. Some parents may wish to go out of the state or country to adopt a child. Parents who are not biologically related to their partner’s children are often interested in pursuing second-parent adoption to protect their parental rights.
Assisted Reproduction and Parental Rights
The rapid development of assisted reproductive technology in recent decades has been a boon to individuals who wish to have children with their same-sex partners. Two mothers can now use donated sperm while one of them carries the child. Two fathers can use a surrogate and a donated egg or embryo. Laws regarding assisted reproduction differ from state to state. For the prospective parent who will not be biologically related to the child, legal rights may differ depending on the state in which the child is born, any applicable agreements between the parties, and the exact process through which a child is conceived. In many cases, a non-biological parent may want to pursue “second-parent adoption” to ensure parental rights.
For more information, see: Parental Rights in Assisted Reproduction
The Psychological Parent Doctrine
In some situations, a same-sex partner who is not a child’s legal parent may still have some parental rights. If you have been co-parenting a child that is your partner’s natural or adopted child but not your own, a New Jersey court will consider what your parenting role has been and whether both you and your partner intended for you to be a parent to the child. Where a non-biological or non-adoptive parent has acted as the child’s parent in the context of a family relationship and both partners clearly planned to be co-parents from the outset, there is a much better chance that a court will give the second parent custodial rights. This is known as the “psychological parent” or “de facto parent” doctrine.
For more information, see: Psychological Parenting Doctrine in New Jersey
New Jersey Child Custody, Visitation and Support
Child custody and child support laws apply to all parents, whether the parents have been in a legal relationship or not. Once parentage has been legally established, an LGBT parent will have exactly the same rights and responsibilities as any other parent, regardless of gender or marital status. Child custody and visitation orders are guided by the overriding policy of the “best interests of the child.” New Jersey law assumes that frequent and continuing contact with both legal parents is in a child’s best interests, unless specific circumstances indicate that this is not the case. The following are the most common custody arrangements in New Jersey:
New Jersey Child Custody Options:
- Joint Legal Custody—Parents with joint legal custody are responsible for making major decisions for children, while one parent typically serves as the primary residential custodian for the child, and the other parent serves as the alternate.
- Sole Legal and Physical Custody—A parent with sole legal and physical custody serves as the residential custodial parent and also makes all of the major and day-to-day decisions regarding the child.
- Shared Legal and Physical Custody—Parents with shared legal and physical custody have equal or nearly equal parenting time, and also participate equally in the making decisions for children and shouldering the overall burden of caring for them.
For more information, see: New Jersey Child Custody, Visitation, and Parenting Time
New Jersey Child Support Formula
In New Jersey, both legal parents are responsible for financially supporting children. New Jersey uses a child support formula based on each parent’s earnings, the number of children in the family, and the allocation of parenting time between the parents.
For more information, see: New Jersey Child Support: The Right to Support
We are dedicated to protecting the rights of children and their parents. We are devoted to supporting LGBT parents and prospective parents both during the family formation stage as well as during the process of any separation, dissolution, or divorce.
Contact one of our attorneys to schedule your free initial consultation. Secure your future. Take the first step today. Call: 888-888-0919.