About Stepparent Adoption
With the increase in blended families, adoption by stepparents has become the most prevalent type of adoption inAmerica. After the adoption is finalized, the stepparent has the same legal parenting responsibilities as a natural parent. This includes all forms of financial support. From a legal standpoint, the stepparent is now a co-parent although custody remains with their spouse. Stepparent adoption relieves the noncustodial parent of future decision making and financial obligations. However, they are still responsible for any child support or other payments owed to the custodial parent up to the time the adoption became legal.
The stepparent adoption process is fairly straightforward. The stepparent files a petition with the court to request adoption. This involves the termination of a natural parent’s parental rights which can be mandated by the court or entirely voluntary. When the court receives the adoption request, a home study will be scheduled. A recommendation based on the findings from the home study and any subsequent investigation is submitted to the court. All parties are required to appear in court to sign the adoption agreement and decree. Generally this is a four month process. The greatest challenge is getting the noncustodial parent to agree to the adoption. Many parents are not comfortable with terminating their parental rights. Stepparent adoption can occur when the custodial parent is either the mother or the father.
The noncustodial parent is required to sign a waiver or consent to the adoption plan. If the natural father is unknown, it is still possible to legally terminate his parental rights. This is equally true if you are unable to locate the noncustodial parent or if the parent simply refuses to sign the waiver to allow the stepparent adoption.