Family Courts: Adoptions, Kinship Legal Guardianship, and Child Protection and Permanency

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Adoption
If the Division of Child Protection and Permanency Has Filed a Complaint Against You
Kinship Legal Guardianship
Termination of Parental Rights

Adoption

To file papers for an adoption, contact your county Surrogate's Office for information.

Contesting an adoption. If you are objecting to an adoption, see the Notice of Rights in Adoption Proceeding forms available online.

If you are contesting an adoption and you cannot afford an attorney, you might qualify for a public defender. Complete an Application for Assignment of Counsel and upload it here.  You can also mail or bring the form to your local family court. The court will review your application. Court staff will contact you to tell you if a public defender will be assigned to represent you.

If you have questions about the form or the process, contact your local court ombudsman.

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If the Division of Child Protection and Permanency Has Filed a Complaint Against You

Division of Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P) must investigate all reports of child abuse and neglect. The CP&P will act if it believes that a child has been or is currently in danger of being harmed. CP&P will file complaint against the parent(s) or caregiver(s) with the family court stating that the case needs court supervision to make sure the child is safe.

Family cases involving CP&P matters are a part of the Children in Court (CIC) case system. Learn more about Children in Court (CIC) Cases

You have a right to be represented by an attorney in this case type. If you cannot afford an attorney, you might qualify for a public defender. Complete an Application for Assignment of Counsel and upload it here. You can also mail or bring the form to yourlocal family court. The court will review your application. Court staff will contact you to tell you if a public defender will be assigned to represent you. The parent handbook also  has counsel information

If you have questions about the form or the process, contact your local court ombudsman.

Kinship Legal Guardianship: When a relative or other person becomes the long-term legal guardian for a child

Guardianshipof a Child Under Your Care Living in Your Home. A kinship legal guardian is a relative or close family friend who is appointed by the court to raise a child when the parents are unable to do so. Kinship legal guardianship (KLG) does not terminate the parents’ rights. Parents can still seek visitation, and they are still financially responsible for the child. A caregiver must have been caring for the child for at least a year before applying for KLG.

If you are interested in becoming a kinship legal guardian to a child in your care, more information is available at the Kinship Navigator Programpage of the Department of Children and Families website. You must apply for KLG through the Kinship Navigator program.

KLG Through CP&P Involvement.When child abuse or neglect has been alleged and CP&P is involved in the case, CP&P can file a KLG application on behalf of a caregiver. If a caregiver wants to be kinship legal guardian to more than one child, a separate application must be filed for each child unless they are all part of the same abuse and neglect case.

Termination of Parental Rights

If CP&P believes it cannot safely return your child to you, it could ask the court to terminate your parental rights (TPR). TPR is final and results in you having no rights or legal authority in decision making for the child.

If CP&P files a termination of parental rights (TPR) complaint against you, the court will hold a permanency hearing to determine whether your child will be returned home, permanently placed with a relative, adopted, or placed in another planned permanent living arrangement. You have the right to be at permanency hearing and to object to the termination of your parental rights. Learn more about TPR CasesVisit the CP&P website for more information.

You have a right to be represented by an attorney when CP&P wants to have your rights as a parent terminated. If you cannot afford an attorney, you might qualify for a public defender. Complete an Application for Assignment of Counsel  and upload it here.  You can also mail or bring the form to your local family court. The court will review your application. Court staff will contact you to tell you if a public defender will be assigned to represent you. You must fill out a new application for assignment of counsel in a TPR case even if you already completed an application in a CP&P abuse and neglect case.

If you have questions about the form or the process, contact your local court ombudsman.

Children removed from their home by CP&P to protect their safety are also assigned an attorney. Children have rights separate and distinct from their parents. The Office of Law Guardian (OLG) is a part of the Office of the Public Defender. It provides free legal representation to children in abuse and neglect cases.

You can appeal a termination of parental rights. If the court terminates your parental rights, you have 45 days to file an appeal. To appeal, you must submit the following to the Appellate Division of Superior Court:

  1. A completed notice of appealwith the court.
  2. A transcript request.
  3. A copy of the family court order.

All paperwork should be mailed to:

Appellate Division Clerk’s Office
P.O. Box 006
Trenton, NJ 08625

Visit  the Appellate Division web page for more information.