There are a lot of facets to parenthood, but in the eyes of Michigan law, parenthood is a legal relationship. Under the law, parents have rights and responsibilities toward their children.
Biological parents who live with their children may not have to think about them very often, but the legal aspects of parenthood become clear when the parents split up and one parent no longer lives with the child. Whether the parents were married or not, both of them will continue to have rights and responsibilities toward their child, and they will have to work them out through the legal issues of child custody and child support.
The legal issues can be a little trickier when it comes to stepparents.
There are many reasons a stepparent might decide to adopt their stepchild. The reason may be simply to show their love and commitment. This can be a beautiful gesture with profound meaning for everyone involved, but it’s also a legal matter.
The legal effect of adopting a child is to take on all the rights and responsibilities of one of the biological parents of that child. This commitment doesn’t end if the marriage later ends. However, it does end the parental rights and responsibilities of the absent biological parent. They won’t have any right to custody or visitation, nor any obligation to pay child support. When they die, the child won’t necessarily inherit anything from their estate.
Termination of the other parent’s rights
Before you can adopt your stepchild, the other parent’s parental rights must first be terminated. Typically, this means you must get their consent to the adoption, which means vluntarily relinquishing their parental rights.
Some biological parents refuse to do this. If this happens, you may be able to convince the court to enact an involuntary termination of parental rights. For this to proceed, you must prove that the other parent had the ability to visit and support the child for the previous two years but did neither. You must also show the court clear and convincing evidence that it would be justified to terminate the other parent’s parental rights.
The process isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s quite difficult. But in the end, it may be the right thing to do for your stepchild. A lawyer with experience in stepparent adoption can advise you on your options.