Why It’s Important to Formally Adopt a Step Child

Adopting a Step Child What is the Process and Why is it Important

Adopting as a stepparent, means consenting to adopting a spouse’s child and taking full responsibility for the child. Following the adoption, the noncustodial parent (the parent who does not live with the child) has no further legal or parental obligations toward the child, including paying child support.

State regulations control stepparent adoption. Most States make the adoption process easier for stepparents, but these laws—and the exclusions for stepparents—vary from State to State. State rules can vary when it comes to things like whether a family needs to hire legal counsel, whether the stepparent and custodial parent need to be married or if the stepparent has lived with the child for a specific period of time, and whether a home study needs to be conducted. Regardless of the laws, it is always best to hire a family law attorney before an adoption. 

The Benefits of Adopting a Stepchild

There are a variety of reasons why a stepparent could consider adopting a stepchild.

People can see it as an attempt to give all children in the household the same status. For others, it’s simply formalizing what is already a reality; the commitment and parental activities have already occurred.

There are numerous reasons why the child would benefit from being adopted by a stepparent. If the other biological parent is still alive but has abused, neglected, or abandoned the children, the other parent and the children may choose to end that horrible relationship and live with the stepparent and their other biological parent permanently. To ensure legal rights and if anything were to happen to the existing parent, adopting the child would safeguard them from possibly living with an abuser or entering a foster system, should a tragedy occur. 

Adopting a child could also ensure their safety and security for the future. If a stepparent has rights over a child and both parents were to die, then that child would not risk entering the foster care system. A nationally recognized child free organization estimates that there are currently 425,000 children in the foster care system in the United States. 140 million orphans are thought to exist worldwide and in the United States, there are more than 600,000 homeless people.

Process of Adopting a Stepchild

Obtaining the consent of both birth parents—your spouse and the noncustodial parent—is one of the most important conditions for stepchild adoption in California. If the other parent’s parental rights have already been revoked by the court, their approval will not be necessary.

When adopting a stepchild, it is important to be aware of the process and the governing laws of the state. Each state can have different laws on the process of adopting a stepchild. For this reason, it is important to hire an attorney to go over the process and ensure the adoption is proper in that jurisdiction. 

Adoption requires a fair share of paperwork. An adoption petition must be filed with the relevant court in the proper jurisdiction. After filing a petition, there will be additional paperwork required by the state court. Some of the information supplied will need to be verified by the court through documentation. 

It is not uncommon to have to go through a hearing process in front of a judge. Sometimes, the court will require all parties, including the child, to be present at the hearings and may require testimony supporting the adoption. 

The Right or Wrong Time to Adopt a Stepchild

There are numerous reasons why you should not adopt your stepchild. Consider carefully before beginning the adoption process for a stepchild whose other biological parent is still alive. Adoption is a lifelong commitment that ends the bond with the biological parents. Adoption can also be used by adults to control or cure a child’s behavior. 

Adoption is not a panacea. Although it may alleviate sibling rivalry, it does not eliminate all tension in the home. Adoption does not guarantee that a family will be complete. Do not do anything for the sake of an optimistic change.

Hold off if you have any doubts about the health or duration of the relationship with the child or the child’s parent. As most are aware, relationships can end, but a relationship as a parent, whether biological or adoptive, does not. It may be prudent to reconsider the adoption process if the child is disputing the adoption in any way and if it will not serve the child’s best interests.

Other Options for Adoption

Adoption is not always the right or only answer. With a little more effort, stepfamilies can gain many of the legal protections given by adoption without actually adopting. Adoption is not always essential, and the decision to adopt should not be made solely on the basis of practical considerations. Adopting a kid involves an emotional commitment as well, if there is no connection between the stepparent and stepchild, it may not be the right time to adopt. 

Consider becoming the step child’s legal guardian if adoption is impractical, infeasible, or undesired. A guardianship creates a legal relationship between the stepparent and stepchild. This can help with medical permissions and for providing education, food, shelter, and clothes, but the parents retain full parental authority. Legal guardianship may be the best solution if trying to protect the child’s interests and be able to have a say in case of an

Important Information to Know About Adopting a Stepchild 

The most important decision in adopting a stepchild is the actual decision to adopt a stepchild. Always weigh all options and bring the entire family into the conversation before starting the process. 

Secondly, due to the legal intricacies and the additional options available, it may be best to speak with an experienced family law attorney before filing for the adoption. Hiring an attorney is not a requirement, but it makes the process easier and can ease the transition. 

Finally, before adoption, a stepchild, make sure that all parents have been notified of the possibility of adoption. For one, both parents will need to sign off if they are still in the child’s life, and two, a biological parent may not like the idea of their child being adopted by a stepparent. 

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