In New Jersey, a birth certificate does not create legal parental rights for the couple listed as the child’s parents. In fact, a person is considered a legal parent of the child only if they are biologically related.
In a scenario in which a couple uses artificial insemination or other methods to conceive a child, and one partner does not contribute genetic material, that partner does not have legal rights to the child despite being listed as a parent on the birth certificate.
“Same-sex couples, LGBTQ couples, and heterosexual couples struggling with fertility who use assisted reproduction procedures may not be aware that the non-biological partner is not considered their child’s parent under the law,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), a primary sponsor of legislation to address this issue. “In these cases, parents need to adopt their own children to have legal rights. The adoption process is painstaking and lengthy, and reform is long overdue.”
The bill (A-5396) proposed by Vainieri Huttle and Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano (D-Union) and James Kennedy (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union) would create a streamlined process for eligible couples to obtain a judicial order establishing parentage through adoption. The process would be available to two-parent families where the biological and non-biological parents are listed on the birth certificate, the couple is married or in a civil union, and both submit a signed declaration explaining the circumstances of the child’s conception.
Non-biological parents will still need to adopt the child, but the judicial process would be expedited and not include a home study, background check or court hearing as it would in a typical adoption procedure. The court may order a hearing to ascertain whether there are additional people who must be provided notice or consent to the adoption, if needed.
“It can be heartbreaking for a parent to discover they have no legal rights to make decisions about their child’s health care, education, or other essential aspects of their life, purely because they do not share DNA,” said Quijano. “Any parent, whether they conceived their child naturally or not, can tell you that being a parent is about so much more than DNA. By streamlining the adoption process for parents in this unique situation, we will more quickly and simply ease this burden.”
“It is unimaginable that new parents must face additional obstacles to ensure that both partners have a legal right to their child,” said Kennedy. “Couples no longer need to be subjected to a lengthy legal process. This bill provides a simplified solution to parental rights.”
When filing a complaint for judgement of adoption, the couple would need to provide:
- Proof of marriage or civil union
- Original birth certificate of the child in which both partners are listed as parents, and
- A written declaration signed by both parties describing how the child was conceived and identifying any other involved parties so the court can determine if they have parental rights to the child
The bill was approved Monday by the Assembly Human Services Committee. It now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.