The most common type of adoption seen in family court is stepparent adoption. This is when a stepparent adopts the biological child of his or her spouse. The process involves a new birth certificate for the child, naming the biological parent and the adoptive parent as the child’s legal parents. This document may also change the child’s last name.
Unlike most other adoptions, stepparent adoptions do not require a home visit to verify the suitability of the adoptive parent. The paperwork involved in stepparent adoptions is less complex than other types of adoption.
Often, the most difficult part of stepparent adoptions is getting consent from the non-custodial birth parent. In order for a stepparent to adopt his or her spouse’s child, the other biological parent must give up all parental rights.
Some non-custodial biological parents agree to give consent to the adoption easily in order to get out of paying child support. If this is the case, a joint request can be filed to get things rolling.
In other cases, it can be difficult to obtain such consent. It may become necessary to request that the court terminate the other biological parent’s parental rights. This is only possible if the court finds the other parent to be unfit, perhaps due to abandonment or abuse.
If a parent gives up or loses parental rights, that parent can no longer make any legal decisions for the child. The parent may also lose all legally enforceable rights to visitation or even communication with the child. While both biological parents may work out an agreeable arrangement to keep the non-custodial parent in the child’s life, the legal status of parental rights is no longer enforceable.
In the court’s view, the most important factor used to consider a stepparent adoption is the question of what arrangement is in the child’s best interests. The court will not take away a biological parent’s rights without a good reason. In order to convince the court that a stepparent adoption is in the child’s best interest, one may have to prove that the other parent has neglected parental responsibilities that can be fulfilled by the stepparent.
The court may find that the other parent is guilty of abandonment, which usually means there has been no contact with and no support for the child for a period of at least one year. The suitability of the parent is also in question. It may not be in the child’s best interest to be parented by someone who is incarcerated or who has addiction issues.
If a parent is looking to adopt his or her stepchild, it is important to speak to a lawyer right away. An experienced lawyer will explain the laws of the state and help the family go through the process with ease.
Modern and blended families should have all the rights and legal protections that are afforded to traditional nuclear families. Unfortunately, it can sometimes involve jumping through legal hoops to make it happen. Luckily, our Media family law lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. are here to assist your family. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-3701 for an initial consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.
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