Step parents make up a large portion of adults who seek to adopt. Many children are left with a single parent because of a tragic accident, abandonment, or other conflict. Another adult may later step forward and help the biological parent raise the child, effectively acting as a parent. A step parent may provide equal support and care for the child, giving the step child a second parent that he or she would have otherwise been denied. In cases in which another adult becomes a joint caregiver, he or she may be able to legally adopt the step child and gain joint parental rights.
Steps in Step Adoption
When an adult decides to adopt a step child as his or her own, s/he takes on the responsibility and status of a legal parent with full parental rights under the law. The steps for adoption vary depending on the circumstances and on the state in which the prospective parent applies for adoption. Some steps involved in a typical step parent adoption include:
Gaining consent from the custodial parent to adopt the child
Gaining consent from the noncustodial parent to adopt the child, effectively relinquishing the noncustodial parent’s parental rights
Providing evidence of financial ability to jointly support the child
Gaining Consent from the Noncustodial Parent
Getting the noncustodial parent to approve the adoption is often the most difficult part of the process. When a step parent is approved for adoption, s/he takes over the parental rights and obligations that the noncustodial parent had. Therefore, law often requires that the noncustodial willingly relinquish his or her parental rights or the adoption cannot go through. In some cases, however, consent may not be necessary. The obvious exception is when the noncustodial spouse is deceased. If s/he is missing or abandoned the child, the court may rule to withdraw parental status from the noncustodial parent and grant it to the step parent instead.
Clearly step parent adoptions vary greatly from situation to situation. The adoption process can be fairly simple or very complex depending on the circumstances and the state in which the adoption application is initiated. If you are an adult considering adopting a step child, consider talking with an adoption lawyer about your situation. An adoption attorney can guide you through the application process and can help to clarify the adoption qualifications and procedure for your state.
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