Legal Guidance In The Adoption Of A Stepchild
The definition of the word family has changed vastly in recent times. Both the nuclear and traditional family model and families, including stepparents, step-siblings, half-siblings, alternative parental figures or blended families, are common today.
Often times, a stepparent or relative who is closely bonded with the child(ren), seeks to adopt to further provide for protection and support of the child(ren). An adoption can accomplish these goals, creating a legal relationship between the child and stepparent that is equally as binding as a biological relationship. It can be especially beneficial 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 adoption process can often times be simplified if the other biological parent is willing to sign a consent. The consent must be notarized and state that the biological parent agrees to voluntarily terminate their parental rights so that the adoption can move forward.
The effect of this consent is that it alleviates all rights and responsibilities, including any future child support obligations, from the uninvolved parent. The signed consent must be filed with the court along with the initial adoption documents. If the biological parent decides not to consent, is nonresponsive or cannot be located, further legal action will be necessary to formally terminate their parental rights through the court process.
Preparing For The Adoption Hearing
There are several steps that need to be completed before the adoption hearing can take place. The adoptive parent must submit a fingerprint card, which will satisfy the requirement for a federal and state criminal background check. This can often times take up to 12 weeks for processing through the court, DPS and FBI.
In addition, the adoptive parent must prepare and submit a central registry check form to allow the Department of Child Services to check agency records as they relate to the adoptive parent, the children involved in the proposed adoption and any other family members residing within the same household.
Helping More Than Just Stepparents and Children
Adoptions are not just for stepparents – family members, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents or even legal guardians, may utilize the adoption process as well.
In addition, Arizona law provides for the adoption of an adult in certain situations, not just children. The adult person must consent to the adoption and, in most cases, either be a stepchild or otherwise related to the adoptive parent.
Consult With An Experienced Adoption Attorney
Unfortunately, not all stepparent or family member adoptions go as smoothly as the processes outlined above, as many other factors can create additional steps or complications.
Consulting with an attorney is helpful to assure the completion of all necessary steps for a successful adoption. 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.