Stepparent Adoption Guide: Formalities of Adopting a Child

Formalities of Adopting a Child

Stepparent adoption is generally one of the simplest kinds of adoptions to accomplish. In most states, it is fairly easy to finalize because some of the necessary steps in the adoption process may be streamlined. For instance, the waiting list for a child, a home study and, in some cases, the adoption hearing are waived. Perhaps the most challenging part involved in a stepparent adoption is securing the consent of the other birth parent.

Getting parental consent

It is required in all stepparent adoptions that the other birth parent of the child should sign a consent form that allows the legal adoption of the child. Should the other birth parent deny consent, then the adoption cannot push through unless the parental rights of the other parent are terminated for some valid reason, such as failure to support the child or abandonment.

By and large, it can be challenging to acquire the consent of the other parent. This is because once he or she gives consent, he or she also effectively surrenders all parental privileges, including child visitation rights or making major decisions regarding the child’s overall well-being. But there are a lot of instances wherein the birth parent willingly consents to a stepparent adoption, such as these examples:

  • The other parent is friends with the stepparent and believes in his or her parenting skills;
  • The other parent agrees that the adoption is in the best interest of the child; and,
  • All child support is cut off once the parental rights are terminated and transferred to the stepparent.

How to terminate parental rights

In case of refusal by the other birth parent to give consent, or if the other parent is nowhere to be found, there are still ways to carry on with the stepparent adoption.

1. Prove that the other parent is no longer in the life of the child

You can still proceed with a stepparent adoption without the other birth parent’s consent if you have enough evidence that shows that the absent parent has abandoned the child or has not made any effort to contact the child or execute any parental rights. In most states, the laws agrees to terminate parental rights when the other parent has deliberately avoided child support or has left the child behind for a certain time period, typically a year. In such cases, abandonment pertains to failure to communicate with or financially support the child.

2. Show proof that the absent birth parent is not the presumed father

This is applicable if the other parent is male. To terminate his parental rights, it would have to be proven that he is not the child’s presumed father, legally speaking. In the majority of states, there are statutes that determine the child’s presumed father under specific circumstances. For example, in all 50 states, the husband of the woman at the time of her birth is legally presumed to be the father of the child.

Instead of pointing out the father’s abandonment, you can choose to simply point out that he does not fit the legal requirements of being the child’s presumed father. If you can prove that the birth father does not pass any of the state’s tests for presumed fatherhood, then the court may end his parental rights over the child, enabling you to continue with the adoption without consent. However, if the father does meet any of the tests of the state, you would have to go back to square one and either get his consent or terminate his rights for any other valid reason.

3. Domestic partners and stepparent adoptions

In some states, procedures for stepparent adoption are also used in same-sex adoptions. Some examples are:

  • In California, married couples or registered domestic partners are allowed to adopt the child of their partner through stepparent adoption procedures, as opposed to the more complicated independent adoption process.
  • In Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, same-sex couples may also use the stepparent adoption process to adopt their partner’s child.

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