What is step parent adoption?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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A step parent adoption is a situation in which a step parent adopts the child of his current spouse. For example, if a woman who has a child remarries, her new husband might choose to adopt the child in a step parent adoption. Step parent adoptions are generally a straightforward process, provided there is parental consent for the adoption. 

Conditions for Step Parent Adoption

In order for a step parent adoption to occur, one parent must give up his or her biological rights. In the example given above, this would mean the biological father of the child would need to give his consent. Such consent is always required except in the cases where the biological parent is proven unfit or in instances where the biological parent has abandoned the child. For example, if the natural father in the scenario had no contact with the child or the child’s mother for a period of years and his location was not known, it is possible he could be seen as having relinquished parental rights.

Every state will have different guidelines on when or if a natural parent can be considered to have relinquished parental rights by virtue of abandonment. Usually, reasonable attempts must be made to locate the birth parent and give him or her the opportunity to object before parental rights are terminated and the step parent adoption can be finalized. Assuming that there is consent or that the biological parent has relinquished parental rights, the petition for step parent adoption will generally be approved without problem upon the request of the involved parties. This is generally done during a hearing at family court.

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After a Step Parent Adoption is Finalized

Upon the finalization of the step parent adoption, the step parent becomes a legal parent of the child, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. If the biological parent should pass away, custody would pass automatically to the adoptive step parent. In addition, the adoptive step parent assumes all responsibility for providing the child with reasonable care as required under the law. Third, the step parent will be considered a full legal parent for purposes of making medical decisions for the child and for financial aid applications for academic institutions. Finally, the adoptive step parent will generally be entitled to visitation and custody rights in the event that a divorce occurs. 

If step parent adoption is right for your family, consider speaking with a lawyer for assistance facilitating the court process. 

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