The definition of the word family has changed vastly in recent times. The nuclear, traditional family model is equally matched with families which include stepparents, step-siblings, half-siblings, alternative parental figures or blended families. Many times, one of the adults in these families, a stepparent, seeks to acquire all of the rights that a traditional biological parent would have for the protection and support of the children. The primary motivation for a stepparent adoption often varies, from completing the familial unit, to abiding by the child’s wishes, to simply allowing the stepparent to provide medical insurance for the children. The adoption of a stepchild by a stepparent can accomplish these goals, creating a legal relationship between the child and stepparent which is equally as binding as a biological relationship. This option is especially beneficial for the child when the child's other biological parent has been absent or uninvolved in the child's life and upbringing.
Consent Of The Biological Parent
The stepparent adoption process begins by gaining the consent of the biological parent. The consent is gained in the form of a legal document which must be signed by the biological parent, witnessed and notarized, stating that they consent to the child's stepparent adopting the child. The effect of this document goes further and serves as a voluntary waiver of all rights and responsibilities that the uninvolved parent has for the child, and alleviates that parent from any future child support obligations. The completed consent document must be filed with the court along with the initial adoption documents. If that parent chooses not to consent, further legal action is necessary before any adoption by a stepparent may begin.
After the consent of the uninvolved parent is obtained, the stepparent may then file a petition to adopt. This petition starts the adoption process with the court and includes specific information about the stepparent, the biological parent they are married to, their relationship and the children which are to be adopted.
Next Steps After Securing Consent
There are several steps that the stepparent must take before a hearing for the adoption can take place. The stepparent must complete and submit for processing a fingerprint card, which will satisfy the requirement for a federal and state criminal background check. This step can take up to 12 weeks for processing through the court, DPS and FBI. In addition, the stepparent must prepare and submit a central registry check form to allow the Department of Child Protective Services to perform a check of the agency records as they relate to the stepparent, the children involved in the proposed adoption and any other family members residing within the same household.
Helping More Than Just Stepparents
The adoption process may also be utilized by family members, such as aunts, uncles and grandparents, who are seeking to adopt a niece, nephew or grandchild. While the overall process is identical to the procedures in a stepparent adoption, consent from both biological parents is necessary to move forward with an adoption by a family member.
Our Experience Can Help Ensure As Smooth A Process As Possible
Unfortunately, not all stepparent or family member adoptions go as smoothly as the processes outlined above, as many individual family factors can create additional steps or complications. Sometimes, it becomes apparent that the consent of a noninvolved parent will be impossible. In those instances, termination or severance of that biological parent's rights becomes necessary. This is a separate court process which must be finalized prior to any adoption. Due to the severe results that a termination action is intended to have, the court rightfully takes every necessary precaution to protect the biological parent's procedural and legal rights. If that parent's rights are severed through the proper legal process, any adoption may proceed with the termination satisfying the requirement for consent of that parent.
Stepparent Adoption Lawyers Serving Goodyear, Peoria And The Entire Phoenix Area
To ensure that all of the necessary steps have been taken for a successful stepparent or family member adoption, it is helpful to consult with an attorney. At Lincoln & Wenk, PLLC, we strive to work with families to ensure the stepparent or family member adoption process is as seamless and straightforward as possible. We share in our client's goal and vision to make their family unit officially whole. Call 623-748-4890 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and discover if adoption would be the right option for you and your family.