Stepparent Child Adoption: How to Adopt Your Stepchild

Blended families are a frequent reality these days. Often, birth fathers are still in the picture. But if not, you might be wondering, how can my husband adopt my child?

A husband can adopt a stepchild if the couple has been married for at least six months and the child’s biological father consents to have their parental rights terminated. 

If the biological father is contesting the adoption, you can seek legal advice on the steps to take.

Adopting a child is a highly beneficial process for the child, the natural parent, the legal parent, and even the child’s other biological parent.

It is established by court order and involves taking full parental responsibilities by the adoptee parent. It includes providing financial support and other legal parental rights and responsibilities. It may involve changes to the child’s birth certificate, such as the adoption of a new name.

In this article, we will explore the important things you need to know about stepparent adoption and second-parent adoption.

Let’s get into it.

What is stepparent adoption?

Stepparent adoption is when a stepparent becomes a legal parent to their spouse’s child. Once the adoption process is completed, the adoptive parent becomes the child’s legal guardian and is granted full parental rights.

They are now fully responsible for the child. It’s a means of legally affirming a stepparent’s permanent relationship with the adopted child.

Naturally, this significant change has some implications.

First, the noncustodial parent (the parent that does not live with the child) no longer has any rights or responsibilities for the child, including paying child support.

The noncustodial parent’s parental rights, including visitation, are terminated once the child is adopted! Of course, if they owe child support, it must be paid. But after it has been paid, they are no longer responsible for the child.

Second, adoption solidifies the relationship between the child and the stepparent emotionally. The child feels more valued and loved (especially in cases where they have been abandoned by the other parent).

Third, the child of their domestic partner or spouse, who has been formally adopted, can benefit from the stepparent’s insurance and inherit a part of their estate.

Now, state law governs the stepparent adoption process. So, it’s ideal to find out the requirements in your state, as they vary from state to state. The requirements are to ensure that the child’s best interest is protected.

The requirements could entail whether the adoptive parent needs to be represented by a lawyer or whether they should have been married to the child’s parent.

It could also involve whether they have lived with the child or have a home study. Where the latter is required, the home study is assessed and approved by a social worker from a licensed adoption agency.

How can my husband adopt my daughter or son?

Your husband can adopt your daughter or son if they meet some requirements. In most states, you, the biological mother, and your husband must have been married for at least six months before you initiate the adoption process.

Another vital requirement is the termination of your child’s other parent’s rights. Before your current husband can take on the responsibilities of being your child’s legal parent, your former husband must consent that their parental rights be terminated.

If they are absent or contesting the adoption, you can take some legal steps. And in some states, if the child is 14 years of age, their consent is also required.

In New York, the consent of both biological parents is required unless the absent parent has failed to visit or communicate with the child for six months, is mentally ill, and is unable to take care of the child.

Or they have surrendered to an authorized agency under social services law or have filed an irrevocable document denying paternity.

Some states require that the adoptive parent and the custodial parent must have been residents of the state for at least six months before filing the adoption petition.

They must prove this at the final hearing, say with a driver’s license. Civilian residents of some states living abroad can also file as long as they have maintained their residency.

How can my partner adopt my child as an LGBT parent?

The first step is to know what the laws of the state you reside prescribe concerning adoption as an LGBT parent. Because some state laws prohibit or limit adoption by unmarried same-sex couples and individuals. Whether you are married to your partner is a vital factor.

A second-parent adoption or parental judgment is the most common means unmarried non-biological parents can establish a legal relationship with their partner’s child.

However, if you are married to your partner, you can avail yourself of stepparent adoption like other heterosexual married couples.

Consult an experienced adoption attorney to guide you on the legal steps required since each adoption case is unique.

Can my boyfriend adopt my son or daughter?

Whether your boyfriend can adopt your son or daughter depends on the laws of the state you reside in. In most states, unmarried couples can adopt children, while in others, only married couples can adopt a stepchild.

For example, in 2002, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that couples could adopt jointly regardless of marital status. So, your boyfriend can adopt your child if you live in Pennsylvania and other states where the law allows it.

In such states, ideally, you will seek the legal services of an experienced adoption attorney who will let you know the requirements you and your boyfriend must meet and help with other facets of the adoption process. Such as obtaining the consent of the non-custodial parent.

But in Utah, unmarried couples cannot adopt. 

Anyone cohabiting in a non-marital sexual relationship cannot adopt. Before you adopt a stepchild, the following are some conditions that you must meet: you must be married to the adoptee’s custodial parent and must be at least ten years older than the adoptee.

And the adoptee must have lived with you and the custodial parent for at least a year. The judge can waive the last condition. In effect, even second-parent adoption is not allowed.

As you probably know, there are different kinds of adoption. And regarding the adoption of a child, in this article, the type of adoption we are concerned with are stepparent adoption and second-parent adoption.

So, what’s the difference between stepparent adoption and second-parent adoption? 

If you’re married and want to adopt your spouse’s child, you can seek stepparent adoption. But if you’re unmarried and want to adopt your significant other’s child, you can seek second-parent adoption.

It’s important to note that even in states where unmarried couples can adopt, they may have to be certified by the Department of Child Safety to ensure that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.

What if the other biological parent won’t consent to the adoption?

If the other biological parent does not consent to the adoption, their parental rights have to be terminated before the adoption process can commence. It is a serious step that the judge would only agree to carry out after careful consideration and only if it is in the child’s interest.

To terminate such rights, at least one statutory ground for such termination must be established. Such grounds include abandonment, incarceration, child abuse, or failure to provide support for the child.

Above all, the court will ensure that terminating the other biological parent’s rights is in the best interest of the child, taking into account the child’s age, emotional and physical needs, present living situation, and other relevant factors.

If the other birth parent is unwilling to consent, the adoptive parent should seek the services of an experienced family law attorney in the state where they reside.

Overview of the stepparent adoption process

Stepparent adoption occurs when a parent’s new spouse becomes the legal parent to their spouse’s child. There are local rules to be mindful of, as adoption procedures vary state by state. Stepparent adoption doesn’t usually involve home inspections or home studies like other types of adoption.

Below is a self-explanatory overview of the process:

  • Check out your state adoption laws
  • Contact the court in your county that handles adoptions
  • Obtain required legal forms
  • Submit required legal paperwork
  • Await notification of a court hearing date
  • Appear at the hearing
  • Finalize the adoption
  • Apply for amended birth certificates

We can also think of the above as the 3 main steps:

  • Submit a petition to adopt
  • Stepparent screening
  • Adoption

Submit a Petition to Adopt

The stepparent submits an adoption petition, a request for a court hearing to decide whether the stepparent is allowed to legally adopt the child. The filing fee varies from state to state but is inexpensive.

Stepparent Screening

The screening process ensures that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. As such, the potential adoptive parent’s background is checked to confirm they are qualified.

Their fitness to raise a child, financial capacity, and an evaluation of their home are key factors the court reviews. The screening process is usually less stringent than other types of adoption since the child is already residing with the potential adoptive parent.

Adoption

A critical requirement of the adoption process is the other parent’s consent since this parent’s parental rights are terminated. However, in some states, the stepparent can still adopt even when the other parent does not consent.

This is when they have not contacted the child for over six months or have practically abandoned the child.

Depending on the state, consent is given in writing or verbally before a judge. And some states require that a lawyer or a representative of the court explains the implication to the parent whose rights are terminated.

If the child is of a certain age, some states require that they consent to the adoption. And some states also require a criminal history report of the stepparent interested in adopting the child.

When a stepparent meets the requirements and passes the screening, a judge will determine whether they can adopt the child. The overarching standard the judge uses is what’s in the best interest of the child.

When the judge is satisfied, the adoptive parent becomes a legal parent to the child, and the child can take their last name.

Since the noncustodial parent will no longer be involved in the adopted child’s life, some experts believe it’s ideal to ensure that an extended family member is still involved in the child’s life. Through text messages, video calls, and in-person visits.

As we learned earlier, adoption requirements vary state by state.

In Florida, for example, along with the adoption petition, the law requires that you attach additional information:

  • The date and place of birth of the step-child
  • A description of how long the step-child has been in the custody of the stepparent
  • A statement indicating that the stepparent is physically able to care for the needs of the step-child
  • The reasons why the stepparent wishes to adopt the child     
  • For children 12 years of age or older: documentation that an interview was held with the step-child and the court determined the adoption was in its best interest     

Once the petition and supporting documentation have been filed, notice is given to other interested parties. And an adoption decree is issued by a court to finalize the adoption.

Source: floridaprobateandfamilylaw.co

Step Parent Adoption 101

Conclusion

In the article, we learned about stepparent adoption and second-parent adoption. We found out whether a new husband can adopt their wife’s child and if a boyfriend can do the same.

We also found out whether LGBT individuals and couples can adopt. We learned about what happens if the child’s other parent refuses to consent to the adoption. And we called it a wrap by exploring an overview of the stepparent adoption process.


Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I am a father and blogger and recently divorced. I love spending time with my 3 daughters and am still learning how to navigate life as a single dad and ex-husband; a life I didn't choose but have accepted.

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