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The challenges and benefits of stepparent adoption

When you married someone who already had a child, you understood the great responsibility you were accepting. Stepparenting can be challenging and rewarding, and it takes a special person to embrace a child who is not his or hers biologically.

While your situation as it is may be comfortable enough, you may desire to have the personal and emotional benefits of being the legal parent of the child. In addition, adoption offers the child benefits and protections not available otherwise. Nevertheless, if you are considering adopting your stepchild, you likely have many questions.

Parental consent

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to cross in adopting a stepchild is obtaining the consent of the birth parent. In fact, if the non-custodial parent refuses consent, you may be unable to go any farther with your plans to adopt. If the child's non-custodial parent is an active part of the child's life, a court may refuse to break that bond.

However, if the non-custodial parent is not involved in the child's life, you may be able to seek termination of parental rights under certain circumstances. For example, the court may involuntarily sever parental rights if the other parent has been out of contact with the child for a certain length of time or if the parent is incarcerated.

After resolving the consent issues, you may proceed with the next steps, including filing a petition, submitting to a background check and undergoing other formalities required by Arizona law. In traditional adoptions, you would have to undergo a home inspection, but courts typically exempt stepparents from this requirement, or at least modify it.

Seeking help

Adopting your stepchild is not only fulfilling for you, but it can also provide practical benefits for the child. With you as an adoptive parent, your child will be eligible to inherit from your estate and benefit from your insurance policies. You will also have legal authority when it comes to medical, educational and custodial decisions for the child.

If the biological parent's refusal to consent blocks your efforts to adopt your stepchild, you have other options. For example, you may be able to provide security and protection through guardianship and estate planning. A skilled attorney can explain your options and guide you through the process so that you have every chance of meeting your goals.

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