New Jersey Adoption Law Change Effective January 2017
A history-making law passed in 2014 by Governor Chris Christie is about to come into effect in January 2017. This legislation will unseal adoption records for adults born in New Jersey, the first time this will be possible since 1940. Adoptees, their adoptive parents and/or legal guardians, siblings and spouses, adult direct descendants, and state and federal agencies with official reasons will be able to gain access to an uncertified, long-form copy of their original birth certificate from the New Jersey Department of Health. How does this effect your Parental Rights and Obligations, Adoption laws, and privacy?
The basic idea of this legislation is that birth parents will be able to decide certain pieces of information their children will be able to access once they reach adulthood, but won’t be able to prevent the children from learning who the birth parents are. Parents can include family history and contact preferences such as direct contact, contact through an intermediary, or no contact. Although critically, the legislation states that for children adopted after August 1, 2015, parents will not be able to redact their names from the birth record, and will be limited to a “no contact” or “contact through a third party” preference.
The idea that parents who put their child up for adoption will no longer be able to hide their identities represents a massive shift in public thinking nationwide. Some of this has to do with a lessened cultural stigma regarding adoption and the traditional family unit. Birth parents have often expressed a desire to stay in touch with their children as well as their child’s adoptive family, or at the very least stay available to them in the case they wish to reach out for support or information. Additionally, most adopted children at one point or another wish to learn about their family’s background whether that be culturally, historically, or for medical purposes such as family genetics.
This bill was originally vetoed by Governor Chris Christie when it first reached his desk in Trenton in 2011. He cited both concerns for privacy violations as well as the fact that anonymity had been promised to women and couples who gave their children up for adoption. However, during the signing ceremony in 2014, Chris Christie shared with the audience a very non-political reason for signing the bill. Both his sister and her husband were adopted, and the governor spoke at some length regarding how “the lack of knowledge and information they can pass on to their own children has been a cause of great concern and stress over the years”.
For more information regarding how this law may affect you or your loved ones, please contact our offices for a consultation today.