When you become a stepparent, you take on a big responsibility. You’ve become a vital adult figure in your stepchild’s life. You provide for that person emotionally and physically. Not only that, but you’ve probably enjoyed many shared experiences together. Now, you might be considering adopting your stepchild. You love your stepchild and want to provide them with the benefits that will come with being legally bound as a family.
Though you didn’t contribute to their biology, you are dedicated to supporting and parenting them through all the ups and downs of life. You have a unique place in this child’s life, which means you are in a unique position within their family. A stepparent adoption lawyer is the best resource you have in your search to provide your stepchildren with a stable family.
The Meaning of Stepparent Adoption
Stepparent adoption is the legal process through which a stepparent adopts their stepchild. Adoption is a legal process where a child or children are permanently taken in by an adult who is not their biological parent. When a stepparent adopts their stepchild, he becomes the legal parent of that child. The adoption process is the same whether it is a stepparent, a biological parent, or a third party adopting a child. A stepparent has the same rights as a birth parent when it comes to child custody and visitation.
The Legal Consequences of Adoption
The biological parent, the adoptive parent, and the child are all legally affected by a stepparent adoption. You must accept and comprehend the ramifications. When in doubt, speak with an attorney.
A child loses any claim on any inheritance from their prior family members. No one has the legal right to dispute a will or claim for a statutory portion of an estate on behalf of an absent parent, grandparents, or other relatives who have relinquished parental rights in favor of adoption. Still, they are free to make voluntary contributions to the child.
The adoptive parent assumes all parental rights and obligations. In the event of a divorce, your adopted stepchild will be entitled to child support. Though it reduces the percentage of your inheritance belonging to your biological children, your adopted child can claim a portion of those assets.
The child’s biological parent has to be made aware of the adoption’s legal status. Divorced couples are entitled to visitation and even custody of their adopted children. If, after the divorce, your new spouse would like to adopt the child, permission would have to be given by the adoptive parent rather than the child’s biological parent as was required for the initial adoption.
The Stepparent Adoption Requirements
Several things are necessary, and a few things need to happen before the adoption is finalized.
- Birth certificate, Marriage Certificate and Divorce Papers
Certified copies of the child’s birth certificate, your marriage certificate, and divorce papers (if the child’s biological parents were married) are a must-have. You should get a certified copy of the death certificate if the absent parent has passed away.
- Physical Address of Noncustodial Parent for Petition Service
A physical address is required for petition service if the noncustodial parent is still alive. Without a physical address, you’ll need to put up some serious effort to track one down. The court expects you to conduct Internet searches, contact relatives, look through phone directories, and contact old friends as the bare minimum for locating an address.
The primary requirement for the adoption is the petition, which is the legal document you will submit to the court seeking the judge’s permission to adopt your stepchild. Adopting more than one child is possible with a single petition. Missing a detail or not utilizing the correct paperwork might create complications for you and the child later. Therefore, it’s not advised that you create your own from scratch unless you have legal expertise.
You may ask the court clerk whether they have a fill-in-the-blanks stepparent adoption kit. Before being used in adoptions, these forms will have been thoroughly checked for correctness and approved by the court.
Alternatively, you may contact the Legal Aid office to check if they offer a do-it-yourself stepparent adoption package. An attorney has already evaluated these documents, and they will be in line with the local regulations.
For the most exacting petition, you may use a local legal document preparation business or stepparent adoption lawyer that provides unbundled legal services. This course of action is the most desirable for situations when you don’t have the specific approval of the absent parent.
- Absent Parent’s Consent
Permission from the noncustodial parent is a crucial prerequisite for stepparent adoption. Obtaining consent may be the most simplistic aspect of the adoption process or the most grievous. Your adoption package will contain a paper that the absent parent may sign and have notarized to express their permission. If the parent is willing to sign, the adoption may generally continue with little to no interference.
- Preliminary Court Hearing
After the serving time has elapsed, there is usually a preliminary court hearing where the judge will evaluate the paperwork, record any problems, and schedule the next stage in the adoption.
- Home Studies and Background Checks
While home studies are frequently waived in stepparent adoptions, courts nonetheless have the right to require them. Child protection services undertake these studies. The court can also request a criminal background check on the adoptive parent.
- Final Court Hearing
The second-to-last requirement for stepparent adoption is the final court hearing. At this hearing, the court will announce its judgment on the stepparent adoption. The judge will evaluate the paperwork and question you about your adoption intent and ask your spouse whether they agree to your adoption of their child and altering the child’s last name.
- New Birth Certificate
The last stage for stepparent adoption is after getting the file-stamped adoption order. You may then request a new birth certificate displaying your child’s adopted name and continue with correcting school and medical records.