- Stepparent Adoption
If you have remarried and your spouse functions as a parent
to your child, you may wonder if your spouse can adopt your child. Adoption
by a stepparent isnít always possible, and it isnít for everyone, but it is
an option some families find to be wonderful for them.
Your spouse may for all intents and purposes be a parent to your child, but
in the eyes of the law, he or she actually has very few rights. A stepparent
is not a legal parent and doesnít have any of the rights a parent does. For
example, if you want your spouse to be able to pick your child up from school
or obtain medical care for your child, you need to give him or her written authority
to do so.
There are cases in which stepparents have sought custody
of their stepchildren. Usually this occurs in a situation where the couple divorces
and the stepparent wants custody or visitation with the stepchild after the
divorce. Stepparents donít have an automatic right to custody or visitation
and have to prove to the court that they have a close parent-child relationship
with the child to even have the chance to go forward with the case. Some states
have laws making the process easier, but in general, stepparents have few rights
in a divorce.
Why You Might Consider Adoption
If you and your spouse have been married for a while and your spouse has truly
become a parent in your childís eyes, you may wish to legalize the emotional
bond thatís already in place. If your spouse adopts your child, he or she becomes
a legal parent in every way. Your child can inherit from the parent, the parent
can seek custody, and the parent can make decisions about the childís life.
Adoption is important to some families because it solidifies their bond and
makes it public.
The Other Parent
If your childís other parent is alive, you will need to obtain his or her consent
to the adoption. A child canít have three legal parents, so the other legal
parent must give up his or her rights. There are some parents who have no problem
doing this. Signing away parental rights completely severs the legal bond between
parent and child, however, it doesnít change the fact that your child has another
person he or she is either biologically or emotionally connected to.
If the other parent will not consent to the adoption, you
may be able to prove to the court that he or she has had little or no contact
with the child or that the contact was dangerous or harmful. In that kind of
situation, the court can terminate the other parentís rights.
Another situation that often comes up is if you donít know
how to find the other parent to ask for consent. If you truly do not know how
to locate him or her, the court will allow you to publish a legal notice in
a newspaper. If the other parent does not respond, consent is waived and you
can proceed with the adoption.
A stepparent adoption is a relatively simple procedure. The stepparent will
need to get a criminal background check and be fingerprinted. A home study,
in which a social worker comes to your home and talks to you and then writes
a report, must be completed. There are court costs and filing fees. It is possible
to do a stepparent adoption on your own, but the process is simpler if you use
an attorney who can handle all the paperwork for you.
If your child is a tween or teen, it is likely that he or she has an opinion
about the adoption. In many states children in these age groups have to give
their consent to the adoption as well.
When the adoption happens, your child will have a new birth
certificate issued with your spouseís name on it. It is completely possible,
if you have a very young child, that he or she would never have to know about
the adoption or the fact that there is a biological parent out there somewhere.
Despite this, experts donít recommend trying to keep this kind of secret. Itís
very likely that someday your child will find out. Instead, talk openly and
honestly with your child about the adoption, the biological parent, and why
you made the decisions you did. When your child is an adult, he or she can seek
out the biological parent if desired.
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