Stepparent adoption lets a custodial parent’s spouse adopt the parent’s biological child. It can be used if the parents are divorced or were never married. The new spouse files a Petition for Adoption and other forms to start the process.
It is important to note that stepparent adoption is permanent. If the judge allows the adoption, the other parent (the parent who is not married to the petitioning stepparent) loses all custody and parenting time rights. They won’t have to pay child support or have any other responsibilities for the child. The stepparent becomes a new legal parent and remains a legal parent even if the stepparent and spouse get divorced later.
The other parent’s parental rights must be terminated before the judge will approve a stepparent adoption. For this to happen, the other parent must either agree to voluntarily terminate their parental rights or have their rights involuntarily terminated by the judge assigned to the case.
Stepparent adoption is easiest when the other parent agrees to the adoption. The noncustodial parent must sign the required forms in front of the judge assigned to the case. The other parent voluntarily gives up all parental rights to the child.
If the other parent doesn’t agree to give up their parental rights, an involuntary termination of parental rights is possible. The judge can terminate the parental rights of the other parent if all of the following are true:
- The parent who is married to the stepparent petitioner has either sole or joint legal custody according to a court order;
- The other parent has substantially failed to support the child financially for two or more years;
- The other parent has substantially failed to visit or contact the child for two or more years; and
- The other parent had the ability to support the child and the opportunity to visit or contact the child during the two-year period.
Additionally, if your child is over 14 years old, he/she must also agree to the adoption. The child does this by signing a form called Consent to Adoption by Adoptee form. They may also be asked questions by the judge assigned to the case.
Stepparent adoption is a complex area of law that requires an attorney with experience in adoptions. Call our office today to set up a consultation to discuss the unique issues facing your family. (734) 422-2377.