11 Jan The Stepparent Adoption
What is involved with a Stepparent Adoption?
An adoption by a stepparent allows the family to become completely blended. The family members’ names can all match. The legal rights and responsibilities between the stepchildren and other children become identical. And in most cases it provides the emotional closure that the parent and stepparent were longing for.
So what does the process look like? Following is a rough explanation of what is entailed in a stepparent adoption.
- Since a child has (2) biological parents, it is necessary to account for the other parent. An adoption cannot take place when there are (2) biological parents willfully participating in the child’s lives. Just because there has been a divorce doesn’t mean the new stepparent can legally step in the shoes of the divorced parent. However, there are many cases where the biological parent has left or never participated in the child’s life. Some of the ways to get past this in a stepparent adoption are: Consent of the biological parents, a previous termination of the parental rights, or proceeding with an “unknown” biological parent. With the latter it will be necessary to prove to the Court that it isn’t possible to identify or locate the other biological parent of the child to be adopted.
- The child must reside 6 months with the parent and stepparent. There are exceptions, but the general rule is that the parties must live together 6 months before the final decree can be signed.
- A home study is required. A home study, sometimes called a suitability study, is conducted by a social worker or counselor trained in family situations. They will interview the parent and stepparent, possibly interview the child depending upon their age, and visit the home to ensure it is kid-friendly, safe, and otherwise suitable.
- A Guardian Ad Litem is appointed. Most of the time a GAL, or attorney for the child, is appointed to conduct a brief investigation to ensure that the child’s best interests are being served by the adoption.
- There is a hearing. Most adoption hearings consist of testimony by the parent and stepparent, the admission of the suitability study, and the recommendation of the Guardian Ad Litem. Since adoptions tend to be uncontested (see step 1 above), it is a short proceeding.
A stepparent adoption may be the final step in forming the forever family that the parents and child(ren) were wishing for. With the proper preparation and legal footwork, it can be a positive experience for the whole family.