Blended families are quite common and for some families, seeking full legal rights and responsibilities of a stepchild is the next step in making their family whole. This is achieved through stepparent adoption.

A stepparent adoption is a formal legal process that allows a stepparent to become a legal guardian of the child with the same rights and responsibilities of a biological parent.  In order for a stepparent to be eligible to adopt their stepchild, either one of the biological parents must have passed away, is no longer in the picture, or is willing to absolve their own parental rights.

Stepparent Adoption Process

Compared to other types of adoptions, stepparent adoptions are the most common and the least complicated. There are no home visits, waiting periods, or background checks; however, what is required is the consent of the other biological parent (if they are still living).

Court Documents

The stepparent will have to submit a sworn, or notarized, petition to the court that includes the following:

  • The full legal name, date, and place of birth of the stepchild;
  • The name to be given to the stepchild (i.e., if the child’s last name is going to be changed);
  • The stepparent’s full legal name, age, address, and length of residency at that address;
  • How long the stepchild has been in the stepparent’s custody (usually, this is the length of the marriage to the biological parent);
  • Confirmation of the stepparent’s physically ability to care for the needs of the stepchild;
  • The case number and date of judgement in which the other biological parental rights were terminated
    • If there is no such case, in substitution, the stepparent should provide the following statement that includes:
      1. The full legal name and address of any person whose consent is required for the adoption (usually, both of the biological parents);
      2. Whether consent has been provided by the above-named individuals; and
      3. If consent has not been granted, the reason why consent is not required (i.e., the other biological parent has passed or has no contact with the child).
    • A statement of why the stepparent wants to adopt their stepchild.

In addition to the above petition, the following supporting documents should also be submitted to the courts:

  • Verified statements of consent to adopt from one or both biological parents;
  • Copies of the judgements terminating parental rights, if any;
  • Documentation supporting why consent was not obtained by the second biological parent, such as:
    • Proof of incarceration
    • Documented neglect or abandonment
    • Documented abuse
    • Proof of limited or no contact
  • Any third-party reports or recommendations ordered by the court
Termination of Biological Parental Rights

If you are interested in adopting your spouse’s child from another marriage or relationship, you will need the consent of the other biological parent—a voluntary termination of parental rights—or evidence of neglect, abuse, or abandonment in order to have their rights involuntarily terminated by the courts.

Final Stepparent Adoption Steps

Once the court finalizes a stepparent adoption, the child will then receive a new birth certificate with your name now listed at the section for the biological parent. If you desire, you may even have the child to take on the adoptive stepparent’s last name.

An Adoption Attorney’s Role in Stepparent Adoption

Hiring a lawyer to aid you in the stepparent adoption process can prove to be highly beneficial. In addition to helping you file, a family law attorney can help you to proceed in the best manner when the other parent refuses to consent to the stepparent adoption. Contact our office for a consultation about your specific case needs.

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