Many parents bring pre-existing children into a marriage, regardless of whether it is the first or subsequent marriage. Ideally, the couple strengthens their love and bond, which can lead to a discussion of formalizing a role they may already play in the lives of their spouse’s children. It is one of the most straightforward types of adoption, but there are still hurdles to jump before the process is complete.
Consent is typically required
The child’s other biological parent must still consent to the adoption if they have parental rights. However, the married stepparent may have already had the other parent’s parental rights terminated. Legal consent is no longer necessary in this case. If the child is over the age of 14, they also must consent.
If the noncustodial parent refuses to give their consent, the parent and stepparent can take steps to terminate the other birth parent’s rights. They can do this by proving that:
- The other parent abandoned the child, which includes no communication and financial support for six months or a year.
- The other parent is unfit.
- The other parent is not the biological parent.
The state will still evaluate the case
The state’s approval of stepparent adoption is based on information gathered by caseworkers during the home study. The judge will review the information and sign off if they believe it is in the child’s best interests. Issues weighed include:
- The child’s relationship with their biological parents and the stepparent
- Whether the parent and stepparent provide a caring and nurturing environment
- The physical and mental health of the parents
- Any past allegations of domestic abuse or other behavior that makes unfit
- How the adoption would impact the child
Get help with the details
Being an active and engaged parent is a challenging and rewarding job. Nevertheless, they often need help with the paperwork involved in a legal stepparent adoption. Family law attorneys can help with the legal details and help the parents deal with the other birth parent or other challenges.