Depending on the state in which you live, the process to adopt a stepchild could be simple or complex. Regardless of the state in which you live, it is necessary to have the consent of the biological parent before the adoption can proceed. If you are considering adopting your stepchild, here is what you need to know about consent.
Why Do You Need Consent?
Consent is necessary in a stepchild adoption because the biological parent is giving up his or her rights to the child. The biological parent will no longer be responsible for making decisions about the child, such as where the child attends school. If the biological parent is reluctant to give up his or her parental rights, you and your spouse will have to petition the court to terminate those rights.
Why Are Parental Rights Terminated?
Family courts are often reluctant to terminate parental rights. If you want to adopt your stepchild though, it has to be done. If the biological parent is a good parent who provides for the child and helps with rearing him or her, it is very unlikely that the court will terminate his or her rights.
However, if you can prove that the biological parent is unfit, then the court might approve your request to terminate his or her rights. There are several angles you can use to prove that a parent is unfit. For instance, you can argue that the parent abandoned the child. Abandonment can mean failing to see the child for a certain period of time and not providing financially for the care of the child.
If the court agrees with you, the parent's rights will be terminated and you can move forward in the adoption process. It is important to note that you will not be entitled to any financial support from the biological parent going forward. If the biological parent owes any back child support, it still must be paid. The biological parent is also not responsible for providing medical coverage even if it was previously part of a previous child support order or agreement.
Work with an experienced family law attorney to not only find out what you can do to increase the chances of having a biological parent's rights terminated, but what comes next in the stepchild adoption process. The attorney can provide an assessment of the likelihood that the parental rights can be terminated and help you explore other legal options available to you.