An Equitable Adoption?  You Are Either Legally Adopted or You Are Not.  There is No In-Between. (Part 1)

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By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, NJ Probate Attorney

Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

Adoptions are a very serious matter, yet there is no shortage of interesting cases under the law of adoption(s).   One might think that an adoption fits the description of a straightforward proceeding involving adoptive parents, biological parents and the successful exchange of legal rights to parentage.  Sometimes, however, you get a really interesting case like the one that I am about to summarize for you which involves the death of a biological parent in which a child was never formally adopted but raised as if the biological child of a stepparent.   I think that you will find this case very interesting.

Background of This Case

In this appeal, the court considered and rejected an argument that a child of a decedent who died without a Last Will or trust may be deprived of an inheritance through application of the “equitable adoption theory” derived from the fact that the child was born after his mother married a man other than the child’s biological father.

The circumstances of the case are a bit convoluted.  Mother (EM) ended a two year relationship with a man (GA Sr.) but then married someone else (AB) two months later in 1977.  EM gave birth to a child seven months later.  That child was named GA Jr. and his birth certificate declared that GA Sr. was his father, even though GA Sr. knew he did not father the child. The biological father knew that he fathered the child.

EM and GA Jr. separated less than three years later and were divorced by judgment entered in 1983.  AB Sr. remarried, and he and his second wife had two children.  He died in 1995.

EM never remarried, and she alone raised GA Jr.[i]  She didn’t reveal to GA Jr. his biological natural parent until 2008, when GA Jr was thirty years old.  GA Jr. knew about his biological father because his mother and he rekindled their relationship shortly after her divorce but their renewed romantic relationship ended soon after it began.

In my next post, I’ll continue my discussion of the case.

To discuss your NJ adoption or estate probate matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.


[i] EM testified at her deposition and it has not been disputed that after the divorce GA Sr only saw GA Jr for brief visits approximately twice per year.

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