stepparent adoptions

How do Stepparent Adoptions Work?

Stepparent adoptions are among the most common types of adoption in the state of Alabama. A step-parent adoption occurs only when the spouse of one of the child’s biological parents adopts the child legally. Sometimes if everyone is in agreement, you do not need a local adoption attorney but it really depends on how helpful the Probate Court is where you live.

The step-parent must be at least nineteen (19) years of age. The stepparent and biological parent must have been legally married for at least three (3) years in most cases and the minor child must have lived with the stepparent for at least one (1) year. In a step-parent adoption case, the Petition for Adoption must be served on both of the minor child’s biological parents. Both biological parents must consent to the adoption of the minor child by the step-parent. Presumptively, your spouse has already expressed consent for you to adopt their child.

Ideally, the other biological parent will consent, clearing the way for the adoption. If the other biological parent is deceased or if their parental rights have already been terminated, they do not have to be served with the Petition for Adoption and do not have to give any consent to move forward with the adoption. Additionally, if the other biological parent fails to respond within a timely manner as set out by the court, their consent will be implied. However, in many cases, it is possible to proceed with the adoption over the natural parent’s objections. Some common reasons for moving forward with a step-parent adoption over the biological parent’s objection include neglect, incarceration, or proving that the other parent is unable or unfit to be a parent.

Additionally, if the stepchild is over the age of fourteen (14), they must give their consent to the adoption and must understand that adoption will mean that the other birth parent will no longer be a legal part of their life. Unlike in standard adoptions, in a step-parent adoption, a pre-placement or post-placement investigation is typically not required. Stepparent adoption in Alabama takes approximately three (3) months to be final.  Once completed, the child will receive a new birth certificate showing the child’s new name and the new parent. This process, in turn, terminates the parental rights of the non-custodial, biological parent. An adoption attorney in Jefferson County or wherever you live can help with difficult proceedings such as terminating parental rights.

As a reminder, adoption is permanent, and you cannot change your mind should you and your spouse later decide to divorce. You would be financially responsible for half of the expense of raising the child. There are four main reasons people usually adopt their stepchild:

1) To provide the child with a greater sense of stability and belonging because the stepparent has opted to take that step to legally and publicly claim the child;

2) To allow the stepparent to participate more fully in raising the child, in that he or she will gain access to information and decision-making power in the medical, educational, and other areas;

3) To ensure that the stepparent has a legal right to retain custody of the child and preserve the relationship in the event of the natural parent’s death or incapacity, and

4) To ensure that the stepchild is treated as a natural child for purposes such as inheritance.

About the Author

Steven Harris is a family law & divorce attorney in Huntsville, Alabama. He lives with his lovely wife of fifteen years and regularly writes informative articles online about domestic relations law and other related topics.

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