Supporting Stepparents’ Rights in Child Custody and Adoption
In Michigan, stepparents and their spouses are often confused or frustrated by the role the law allows a stepparent to play in a stepchild’s life. If you are a stepparent, you may have encountered this firsthand; issues related to obtaining health care, disciplining a child, having a say in the child’s education and many other matters can be needlessly complicated by your designation as a stepparent. Even if you are committed to raising and supporting a child, the law can make doing so very difficult simply because you are not the child’s biological parent.
What Can You Do?
In many situations, adopting the child will resolve most issues and grant you rights as the child’s parent. This process can be especially complicated, however, so it is vital to have an attorney you trust to guide you through it. Below, you will find a brief overview of the stepparent adoption process in Michigan. We encourage you to read this information and then contact us to learn more about stepparent adoption and other possible options that can help you maintain an active role in your stepchild’s life.
Stepparent Adoption in Michigan
If your spouse and the child’s other parent are able to get along, and the child’s other parent no longer wants parental rights and obligations, it can greatly increase the ease and efficiency of the stepparent adoption process. Under these circumstances, the other parent may voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights. After obtaining the approval of the court and waiting for the 21-day appeal period to end, the stepparent may then adopt the child and gain parental rights.
Important note: If a child being adopted is 14 or older, he or she will also need to consent to the adoption before the court will approve it.
Contested Stepparent Adoptions
If the child’s other parent does not want you to adopt the child, you are dealing with a contested stepparent adoption and will have to go through a much more complex process. In Michigan, contested stepparent adoptions involve the involuntary termination of the noncustodial parent’s rights – you are asking the court to terminate the other parent’s rights despite his or her objections. The state does not take the termination of parental rights lightly, so it imposes a hefty burden that must be met to achieve such a termination.
The court will assess whether the noncustodial parent:
- Has the means to support a child, but has failed to provide “regular and substantial support” for the child for at least two years
- Has “regularly and substantially failed or neglected” to visit or communicate with the child for at least two years
Both of these criteria must be met for the court to terminate the noncustodial parent’s rights and lay the groundwork for a stepparent adoption.