In response to a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006, the New Jersey legislature created civil unions to give same-sex partners the legal rights that different-sex partners enjoy as a result of their marriage. For example, partners in a civil union can cover each other on health insurance, file joint New Jersey tax returns, and have the same access to medical facilities and right to make medical decisions for one another as married couples.
If both parents had legal parental rights to their child (via adoption) prior to entering into the civil union, then the civil union will not change those rights. Both parents would have equal rights to the care and custody of the child, in the absence of a court order to the contrary. However, if one parent did not have a legal parental status with respect to the child prior to the civil union, the only change a civil union will make for that parent is that New Jersey law will recognize him or her as a stepparent. While, this status still does give the parent legal parental rights, it allows for the party to use the stepparent clause under the adoption statute to complete a confirmatory adoption and allows the Court to waive any home study requirement. The adoption decree will give that parent full legal parental rights and stand independently as a legal document carrying certain rights and responsibilities.
On other hand, if you enter into a civil union in the state of New Jersey, and your partner later gives birth to a child, the law presumes that you are a legal parent of the child, based on the fact that you are in a civil union with the parent who gave birth to the child. This is an extension of the marital presumption under New Jersey law that the spouse of a woman gives birth is the legal parent of that child. Keep in mind, however, that a legal presumption does not carry the same weight as a court order, especially in states that may not recognize your civil union.. Again, the only secure way to protect yourself and your child and ensure the portability of parentage rights is to obtain a Judgment of adoption.
The intersection between civil unions and adoptions can be very complex, so you will need to consult a New Jersey family law attorney about your rights and obligations under New Jersey law. We are here to help you make the decisions in your case that will best benefit you and your family in your legal matter. We are here to answer your questions, ease your mind, and help guide you through what is likely to be a difficult proceeding. At Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, we handle many legal matters that relate to families and children. Contact our office today and see how we can assist you with your New Jersey divorce and spousal support case.