As a stepparent, you have played a big role in your stepson’s or stepdaughter’s lives. Reading them bedtime stories, teaching them how to ride a bicycle and taking them to the emergency room after sudden medical issue. Your presence in their lives has been a blessing.
You knew that the new family dynamic would take some adjustment when you married their mother, and it has worked out well. After some serious family discussions, you and your blended family have decided to take a giant step. You would like to adopt the children. You will no longer be the stepparent; you will be their legal parent.
A big change for everyone in the family
Some common situations exist in which a stepparent has adopted a child. It may be that the child’s other biological parent is deceased or that parent has been long absent from the child’s life. However, the main thing is that you love the child.
Here are a few things to remember in pursuing stepparent adoptions:
- Stepparent adoption represents a seismic shift in your life and the life of the child: Whether the child’s other biological parent has died or is absent from his or her life, this is a big psychological change for the child. A new identity, a name change, and wondering why he or she is in the middle of this. Some experts recommend family counseling.
- Understand the many legal aspects: As the adopting parent, you take on every legal responsibility of parenthood. You are financially responsible for the child. And should you and your spouse divorce, you will be responsible for paying child support.
- Gather all documents: These would include the child’s birth certificate and proof of your marriage. In matters pertaining to the biological parent, obtain divorce documents if they had been married. And, if the parent has died, obtain a death certificate.
- Make a strong effort to find the child’s absent parent: A seasoned family law attorney can provide guidance in this if you have come to a standstill.
- Obtain termination of parental rights from the biological parent: He or she may voluntarily terminate those rights by agreeing and signing legal documents. However, involuntary termination also exists. Among the reasons a parent involuntarily relinquishes rights include neglect, abandonment, abuse, drug and alcohol dependence, and conviction of specific felonies.
- Get consent: Not only must you gain consent from the birth parent, but, in some cases, the person being adopted as well. Consent is necessary from children aged 12 or older and from adopted adults.
Your bonds with your stepchildren are deep. That likely will not change. But, now, you want to become their legal parent as well. It can be a life-fulfilling experience. The right legal advocate can help you accomplish this.