In situations where a stepparent acts as one of the child’s primary caregivers and the other biological parent is not involved in the child’s life, stepparent adoption may be in the best interests of the child. Adoption terminates one biological parent’s legal rights and allows the stepparent to take over those rights and responsibilities.
When to Consider Stepparent Adoption
Some scenarios where stepparent adoption may be the best choice include cases where the other biological parent has died; cases where the other parent is uninvolved in the child’s life, due to imprisonment or abandonment; and cases where the other parent voluntarily relinquishes his or her rights. It is not appropriate in situations where the other parent still plays a role in the child’s life.
Stepparent adoption is ideal in cases where the stepparent already plays a parental role in the child’s life, and the adoption serves as a formalization of that bond. In such cases, the legal benefits of stepparent adoption can be significant. For example, the adoptive parent gains the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child as the biological parent would. Adoption also ensures that the stepchild is eligible for Social Security and life insurance benefits if the stepparent dies.
It is important to understand that the stepparent adoption is a permanent process that cannot be revoked later on. If the stepparent and biological parent divorce later, the adoption remains valid and the stepparent will retain their legal rights and responsibilities to the child.
Terminating the Other Parent’s Legal Rights
Stepparent adoption cannot occur without terminating the legal rights of the other biological parent. Filing a petition for freedom from parental custody is the first step in the process. If the other parent is still living but absent, every effort must be made to contact them so that they have the opportunity to contest the proposed adoption.
In some cases, the family may draft a post-adoption contract that allows the biological parent to continue to see the child on a limited basis after the adoption.
The Adoption Process
If the child is over the age of 12, the child’s preferences and consent are important to the process. In such cases, the child will must sign a consent form to allow the adoption to proceed.
Other aspects of the adoption process are designed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child. For example, the family will work with Social Services and home visits may be required. The family may also need to appear in court in some cases.
If your family is interested in stepparent adoption, the first step is to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney who has experience in stepparent adoptions.
Gerald A. Maggio is an experienced Orange County divorce attorney and family law attorney located in Irvine, California, serving the Orange County and Riverside areas. Mr. Maggio assists clients with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, divorce mediation, child custody, prenuptial agreements, stepparent adoptions, and other family law issues. Mr. Maggio has practiced law in California since 1999, and founded The Maggio Law Firm in 2005, focusing exclusively on divorce and family law matters.