Stepparent Adoptions

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Is it Difficult for a Step-parent to Adopt a Step-child?

The majority of adoptions in the United States include stepparents adopting the child of a parent.  Although adoption laws vary from state to state, stepparent adoptions are generally much easier to obtain than other kinds of adoptions.

The stepparent adoption process is much easier if both of the child's biological parents consent to the adoption.  A problem arises where one biological parent consents the adoption, but the other parent's consent cannot be obtained. Reasons for this include:

How Does a Stepparent Adopt a Child?

In all stepparent adoptions, the child’s other birth parent or legal parent must give consent to the adoption. If the birth parent does not give the required consent, the adoption will not be allowed unless the parent’s rights are terminated for some reason such as being an unfit parent, abandonment, failure to support the child, or child abuse.

Sometimes stepparents have a difficult time getting the birth parent to consent.

Are There Different rules for Adoption by Stepparents?

The general adoption procedure is the same for step-parents, but there are some parts which are often waived or glossed over. These include: 

What If the Biological Parent Consents to the Step-parent Adoption?

The step-parent adoption process will be easier if the biological parent consents.  In doing so, the biological parent will give up all rights and obligations to the child, including the right to visitation and to make medical and educational decisions, as well as the obligation to pay child support.

What If the Biological Parent Refuses to Consent to the Step-parent Adoption?

If the biological parent refuses to consent to the step-parent adoption it is still possible for the step-parent to successfully adopt the step-child. However, a lawsuit will have to be brought against the biological parent.  This lawsuit will aim to terminate his or her biological rights.  Grounds for terminating a parent's biological rights include: 

What If We Do Not Know Who the Biological Parents Are?

The biological parents must consent to the adoption or have his or her rights terminated by a court.  This is true even if the biological parent's whereabouts are unknown.  If the parent has been absent for a year or more his or her rights could be terminated on the ground of abandonment.
Most states have time requirements for a showing of abandonment. The most common such requirement is proving that the abandonment existed for a year or more. However, some state’s time requirements depend on the age of the child to be adopted. For example, Missouri requires a showing of six months for a child one year or older, and sixty days for a child under one year.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt my Step-child?

Because of the complexity of the adoption process, it may be wise to consult with a family lawyer.  Speaking with an experienced family law attorney will help you understand your rights and obligations as well as preserve any possible remedies you may have.

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Last Modified: 08-18-2015 02:27 PM PDT

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