When most people think of adoptions, they picture a couple adopting a child from his or her birth mother. However, stepparent adoptions are actually believed to be the most common form of adoption in the United States.
Stepparent adoptions commonly occur when one biological parent is no longer around, and the parent with custody gets remarried. The stepparent may play a large role in the child’s life and desire to “make it official” by adopting the child. Once the stepparent adopts the child, the child is considered the child of the stepparent, and therefore the child has the same legal rights a biological child would have, such as inheritance rights, and parental support.
Although the stepparent adoption process varies from state to state, typically the stepparent files a petition with the court to adopt the stepchild. In order for the adoption to occur, the legal rights of the other parent must be terminated. A parent’s legal rights can be terminated fairly easily if the parent agrees. This may be done in order to avoid future child support payments (however, any unpaid prior child support payments still remain due).
If the parent does not agree, the court can choose to terminate parental rights if legal grounds exist, such as abandonment or abuse. Once parental rights are terminated, the parent loses all rights to the child, including the right to visit with the child or make decisions for the child. Once the petition is filed and the parental rights are terminated, there is typically some type of home study or investigation. Finally, there will be a court appearance where the adoption is granted.
As you may imagine, the most difficult part of many stepparent adoptions is the termination of parental rights. Although a parent may not be involved in his child’s life at all, he may not want to give up his legal rights to the child. Or, the parent may be unable to be located.
Our firm has the experience and expertise to guide your family through this often difficult process. When you retain us, you can be certain that we will take time to learn more about your family, your unique circumstances and ensure that the adoption proceeding is done in the most efficient manner possible.