Can I adopt my spouse’s birth children?
Yes, you can adopt your spouse’s birth child and the procedure is far simpler than the process for other adoptions. While a regular adoption generally involves court hearings, home visits and a long waiting period, the court generally removes these requirements and the process is much faster. The main legal requirement is that the adopting parent must get the consent of the other birth parent.
How do I get the consent of my step child’s other birth parent?
The consent of the other birth parent is a legal requirement for a step parent adoption, The consent is however not required in cases where the parental rights of the other birth parent have been terminated for neglect, abandonment, unfitness, non-payment of child support or for any other reason.
Often it may be very difficult to get the consent of the other birth parent as by giving consent, the other birth parent is essentially waiving his or her parental rights. Once the birth parent gives consent, the birth parent will no longer be responsible for the child. As such if the birth parent is paying child support, it may be easier to get the consent in such cases. Sometimes the birth parent may consent without any hassle because he or she understands that step parent adoption is in the best interest of the child.
What if the other birth parent does not consent?
If the other parent does not consent, you can apply to have his or her parental rights terminated. Once his or her parental rights are terminated, the consent will no longer be required. To have the parental rights terminated, you must show that the parent abandoned or neglected the child or is otherwise unfit to continue as the parent or is not the biological father (if the birth parent is male).
Proving Abandonment: A parent is said to have abandoned the child if he or she has not provided financial support for the child or communicated with the child. Most states have a fixed time period (generally one year) to determine abandonment.
Proving that the other birth parent is unfit: In most states, there will be a fitness hearing. Generally the court will declare the parent unfit if he or she has neglected the child or has been abusive, has a mental disorder, drug or alcohol addiction or has been sent to jail for a criminal offense. If one parent is declared unfit, the other gets sole custody of the child and the consent of the unfit parent is not required for step parent adoption.
Proving that the father is not the biological father: In most states, the law lists specific requirements for a father to be considered the biological father. Check your state laws. Generally when a child is born to a legally married couple, law considers the husband as the biological father. If the couple marry after the birth of the child and the husband is named the father on the father on the birth certificate, then he is considered to be the father. You need to show abandonment or neglect or unfitness. All you need to do is show that the father does not meet the requirements under the state law. If you succeed, you will not need his consent but if you fail, you must get his consent or prove that he has abandoned or neglected the child or is unfit.
Can a same sex partner adopt a step child?
In a few states, a same sex partner can adopt a step child. Under California law, a domestic partner can adopt the birth child of the other domestic partner using the step parent adoption process. In Massachusetts the law permits a same sex partner to adopt a step child. If your state does not recognize same sex marriages or domestic partnerships, you will not be eligible for step parent adoption.
Should I hire an attorney for step parent adoption?
While having an attorney is not a must, it will make the entire process easier for you and increase the chances of success. Check with your state for the forms that must be submitted.