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Legal Guidance In Achieving 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.
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 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 that 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 adoption process begins by gaining the consent of the biological parent in the form of a legal document. The biological parent must sign this, witnessed and notarized, and state 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 obtaining the consent of the uninvolved parent, the stepparent may file a petition to adopt. This petition starts the adoption process with the court. It includes specific information about the stepparent, the biological parent they are married to, their relationship and the children 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
Family members, such as aunts, uncles and grandparents, may utilize the adoption process to adopt a niece, nephew or grandchild. While the overall process is identical to the procedures in a 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 that must be finalized prior to any adoption.
Due to the severe results that a termination action has, the court rightfully takes every necessary precaution to protect the biological parent’s procedural and legal rights. If the proper legal process severs the biological parent’s rights, any adoption may proceed with the termination satisfying the requirement for consent of that parent.
Consult With An Experienced Adoption Attorney
Consulting with an attorney is helpful to assure the completion of all necessary steps for a successful stepparent or family member 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.