Adoption takes time and careful preparation. This is true even with stepparent adoption.
It is a permanent commitment to the stepchild that comes with all of the rights and responsibilities of a parent, even in the event that the stepparent’s marriage with the child’s biological parent ends in divorce.
Key requirements for stepparent adoption
Stepparents who want to pursue adoption must first petition the court, which must also consider the rights of biological parents. The stepparent adoption cannot occur until one of the child’s biological parent’s rights are terminated. A voluntary termination of parental rights happens when the child’s biological parent gives up all rights to the child by signing the required documentation in front of a judge.
The biological parent’s rights may also be involuntarily terminated if a judge finds that certain criteria are met. The stepparent must prove the following by clear and convincing evidence to the court:
- The parent who is married to the stepparent has a court order granting him or her either sole or joint legal custody.
- The other parent has substantially failed to financially support the child and failed to contact the child for two or more years and had the ability and opportunity to do so within that time frame.
Once the biological parent’s rights are terminated, the parent no longer has any legal, financial or other responsibilities for the child.
Adoption creates a lifetime bond between a stepchild and stepparent. An experienced attorney can advise stepparents about their rights, prepare the required adoption paperwork and represent them at hearings.
With patience and preparation, becoming a forever family is in reach.