One of the most common forms of adoption is when a stepparent decides to adopt a stepchild. This important action means that the stepparent is agreeing to take on legal and financial responsibility for their spouse’s child. It also means that the child’s noncustodial parent releases their parental responsibilities.
A Stepparent Adoption is likely an exciting time for the stepparent and the child, but there are important considerations to ensure it is appropriately and efficiently executed.
Consider the Benefits
If a stepparent is actively involved in a child’s life, it may not seem necessary to formally adopt the child. Adoption, however, brings a variety of benefits not available without this official process, including:
- A sense of permanency for the stepparent and the child;
- The rights and responsibilities of guardianship if the birth parent spouse dies;
- Rights of inheritance and insurance coverage for the stepchild; and
- The ability for the stepparent to provide medical consent for the child.
Once you have decided adoption is the right step for your family, you will need to make it formal through an official court adoption process.
Prepare for the Process
Each state has specific process requirements for all adoptions, including Stepparent Adoption. As you prepare for this milestone, you should prepare for the following:
- State Laws. You will need to understand your state’s adoption laws and legal precedents that may be unique to your situation.
- Correct court. The court handling a stepparent adoption may be different from state to state. Some states may handle these matters in a juvenile court while others may have specific family courts familiar with adoptions.
- As with most legal proceedings, a stepparent adoption requires accurate completion of a number of forms. One critical form is consent of the non-custodial birth parent. This may be one of the most contentious aspects of the proceeding, as the birth parent will be required to give up all parental responsibilities.
- Attend a hearing. The hearing will allow a judge to hear your particular facts and circumstances and will set a date for finalization of the adoption.
- When finalized, you will receive adoption certifications that will allow you to apply for amended birth certificates.