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Stepparent Adoptions

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Details concerning stepparent adoption laws, birth parent approval, and termination of parental rights.

Stepparent adoption is an official court process allowing a biological parent’s spouse to adopt their spouse’s child. When a court concludes a stepparent adoption, the child is going to get a new birth certificate having the adoptive parent’s name placed in the biological parent area, and when desired, is also going to take the last name of that parent.

Stepparent adoptions are the most common adoption procedure in the US since the process is more efficient and less complex than other types of adoption. For instance, a lot of adoptions necessitate a home study, which could take several months to finish, but many states forgo the study in stepparent adoptions.

Even though the stepparent adoption process might be easier in a lot of respects, the most difficult task can be getting consent from the other birth parent.

Getting Parental Consent

Many biological parents approve of the adoption because it’s in the best interest of their child. Others might agree since it is going to eliminate their liability to pay child support after the adoption is finalized. In ideal situations, the non-custodial biological parent agrees to the adoption, and you are able to file a joint request.

Nevertheless, it’s often difficult to get parental consent to adoption since this means relinquishing all their rights to their child. In general, a complete cessation of parental rights means that the biological parent:

  • relinquishes all power to make any decisions concerning the child
  • surrenders all visitation rights and no longer can see or spend time with the child, and
  • surrenders their communication right to the child.

If you have difficulty coming to an agreement, or the other biological parent will not give consent, you are going to need to petition the court to cease the rights of the other biological parent. The judge is not going to allow the adoption to progress unless there’s a valid reason to cease parental rights, such as desertion, incompetence, or a history of abusing the child.

Asking the Court to Terminate Parental Rights

When your child’s other birth parent won’t consent to the adoption, or if you are unable locate the parent, you can petition the court for assistance. The court’s main concern is what is best for the child, and you can prove that adoption is best in a number of ways. On the other hand, since termination of parental rights is absolute, reasonable doubt is very high, and the court is only going to allow the adoption to progress if it’s definite that it’s best for the child.

Desertion

You might feel hopeless throughout the adoption process if the other parent is unavailable and you are unable to get consent. Nevertheless, the stepparent adoption process can proceed if you can show that the parent hasn’t been in contact with the child or hasn’t exercised their parental rights for them. Each state’s abandonment laws differ, but most states necessitate a minimum of one year to go by in which the parent has declined to support or communicate with their child. In circumstances in which the parent is paying child support but does not see the child or practice any other parental rights, the termination of rights process might be more complex.

Unfitness

When the other parent has a history abusing the child, is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, or is imprisoned, the court is going to conduct a hearing to establish if it’s in the best interest of child to let that parent proceed to exercise their parental rights. In these kinds of cases, when the biological parent’s spouse is balanced and devoted to providing the child with an improved life, the court may unwillingly terminate the other parent’s rights and enable the stepparent adoption to progress.

Paternity Issues

Proving a male absent parent is not the child’s biological father enables court termination of his rights. State laws vary.

In Michigan, if opposite-sex couples marry when the child is born, the husband is presumed the biological father.

To disprove this, parents must meet state requirements promptly. If the other biological parent doesn’t meet presumed parenthood criteria, court termination is possible.

However, if the parent doesn’t consent and proves presumed parenthood, obtaining consent or petitioning the court is necessary.

Stepparent Adoptions and Same-Sex Marriages

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, overturning previous bans. Before this, couples in states where same-sex marriage was illegal faced challenges in petitioning for stepparent adoption, even with biological parents’ consent. Consequently, if a biological parent passed away, the child might end up with strangers rather than the nonbiological parent.

Currently, legally married same-sex couples enjoy the same stepparent adoption rights as opposite-sex spouses. Meeting similar requirements is essential. Given the common use of egg or sperm donors in same-sex couples, donors often relinquish parental rights, simplifying the adoption process.

However, challenges arise when a biological parent shares a child with an ex-spouse or partner. Obtaining consent or undergoing court procedures to terminate parental rights is necessary before finalizing the adoption.

Source:

  1. Melissa Heinig, A. (2018, September 20). Stepparent adoptions. www.nolo.com. Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/stepparent-adoptions-29643.html
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