A step-parent adoption is the adoption of a child by a new spouse of the birthparent. This often happens in situations when the other biological parent is uninvolved in the child’s life or is deceased, and the step-parent has taken on a parental role for a child. The step-parent and spouse seek to strengthen and support the relationship through adoption. A child may enjoy a greater sense of stability and support by being made the legal son or daughter of the new spouse. Adoption of the step-child can simplify health care and financial responsibilities, as well as, make the family whole.
Before an adoption can happen the child must be legally free for adoption.
There are two options to accomplish that: The parent agrees to the adoption or the parent’s rights are severed.
1) Consent: The parent signs a Consent for the Child to be Adopted- this must signed by the parent voluntarily and it must meet all the legal requirements.
2) Severance: if the parent won’t consent then their rights must be terminated. For more info, Filing a Private Termination of Parental Rights.
Tip: If it is the biological father who must consent make sure paternity has been established. If it hasn’t you may be able to proceed by providing notice of the adoption.
The Basics on Step-parent aAoptions:
Home study/ social study: For a step-parent adoption this means the step-parent must undergo fingerprint and child abuse Central Registry background checks. A step-parent is not required to be certified to adopt.
Publication: If the father is not on the birth certificate it may be necessary to publish notice of the adoption to potential/unknown fathers.
Obtain additional consents: A child over age twelve and the biological parent who wants their spouse to adopt must consent to the adoption.
Filing the Adoption: File all adoption pleadings, an original certified birth certificate, consents, severance orders, and home study/ social study information with the Court. Visit our page on adoption pleadings.
Adoption Hearing: Hearing date will be set within six months unless the family is eligible for an expedited hearing. Flowchart of Timeframes for Adoption Hearings
Do I need an attorney? Yes, you will to advise you on how to handle the other parent, prepare your adoption pleadings and take testimony at the final adoption hearing.
The County Attorney does adoptions at no cost, however, their services do not necessarily include terminating a parent’s rights or publishing on an absent parent. Check with them to see if they will accept your case. If not, our firm offers low cost options for termination proceedings and step-parent adoptions. Contact us for a case assessment so you know exactly what procedures you need.
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