How Difficult Is It to Adopt Step Children?

baby-gc000b0533_1920Blended families are becoming increasingly common in America. Over the many stages of life, it is far from unusual for people who have children from a previous relationship to plan a future together.

As a family develops into a unique whole, there often comes a right time to consider whether a stepchild or stepchildren should be legally adopted by the non-biological parent.

Adopting a stepchild often takes place after the parent and stepparent marry, although the exact timing can be different for everyone. When you formally adopt a stepchild, it means that you will share all of the same parental rights and responsibilities that biological parents are entitled to when a child is born.

Like all forms of adoption, the choice to adopt a stepchild should not be done in haste. In the natural course of a developing relationship, it is important to discuss the matter with the rest of the family. That includes finding out the child’s wishes and understanding how the new family dynamic may affect them.

All in all, though, step parent adoption is very often the best option for everyone.

At a time when a child could be worried about the future of his or her family, adopting your stepchild is a great way to show them they are safe and wanted. Many families believe that this is a crucial step toward providing a stable family environment where a young person can continue to flourish.

Understanding the Process of Adopting a Stepchild

Legally, the process of adopting a stepchild is virtually identical to other forms of adoption.

Some of the major milestones in step parent adoption include:

  1. Obtaining Permission from Biological Parents

Naturally, you already have the consent of one of the two biological parents when you consider step parent adoption. If the other biological parent is deceased or has had their parental rights terminated, you do not need to do anything more for this step. If the parent is absent, but still retains rights, you will need consent.

In many states, a written consent in sufficient. Some states require a court hearing.

Sometimes, biological parents who have not been part of a child’s life for whatever reason do not hesitate to consent to the adoption. Rarely, however, biological parents may exercise their right to contest the adoption in court. You may need to argue before a judge that the person’s parental rights should be terminated.

  1. Petition to Adopt

Once consent has been obtained or others’ parental rights terminated, you will submit a petition to let your local court system know your intentions. This type of petition can be filed in family court on your behalf by an adoption attorney. It usually includes detailed background information on yourself and your partner.

Many states also require you to supply a criminal background check at this stage.

  1. Court Hearing

During a court hearing, you will explain your situation to a judge. Depending on the age of the child, the judge may be interested to know his or her opinion. For stepchild adoption, this is typically the last step. Once the judge grants your request, you will be listed as a parent on an amended birth certificate.

You can also choose to change your child’s last name at this time, if desired. Unlike many other types of adoption, it is not always necessary to perform a home study, in which a social worker visits your home to ensure it is a suitable environment. However, some states require you to be married at least a year.

For step-by-step guidance from an expert who cares, contact adoption attorney Jennifer Fairfax.

“I believe in working with each of my clients—in support of their family dynamic—to make the dreams of parenthood a reality. Whether you are single or married; or gay; a step-parent, a surrogate or intended parent or a child of adoption, it is my mission to serve as your advocate. With a dedication to the ethical and sensitive nature of each situation, I will help you understand the laws within Maryland or Washington, DC for adoption or surrogacy, and pledge to be your partner throughout the journey.” - Jennifer Fairfax

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