Blended families are as common as divorce in today’s society. It’s a natural obligation to care for the children of your spouse, even if they aren’t yours biologically. In some cases, stepparents become the actual parent a child needs. Though that emotional bond is important, the legal aspect of making a stepchild your own is nearly as crucial. From medical releases and parent-teacher conferences to estate planning and inheritance, adopting your stepchildren can ensure you have the freedom to care for the child, just as a biological parent would.
If you are co-parents with a spouse who has children and raising those children as your own, you can tackle most of the most important parts of parenthood, like providing them with food, shelter, love, and guidance. However, having the security and peace of mind of being your stepchild’s legal guardian can be a loving gesture, as well as an important step in keeping custody. Contact our Oklahoma family law attorneys to learn more about how to take this next step.
When Am I Eligible to Adopt My Stepchildren?
There are several eligibility requirements you need to meet to adopt a stepchild, and some of these requirements can vary from state to state. In Oklahoma, partners must be married at least a year before a stepparent can begin the process of adoption. In other states, partners don’t even have to be married to adopt each other’s children, like in California.
Many people believe that if the biological parents of the child are still alive and married, they cannot adopt a stepchild. However, that isn’t always the case. If a child has been abandoned by one parent (either emotionally or financially) or a parent gives up their parental rights, a stepparent may be able to go forward with an adoption. In Oklahoma, the courts do not take this step lightly. It can be very difficult to move forward with an adoption without the other parent’s consent, even if they have been negligent in their care for the child.
A parent’s right can be involuntarily terminated as well. The termination process happens in court. In Oklahoma, the courts do not take this step lightly. It can be very difficult to move forward with an adoption without the other parent’s consent, even if they have been negligent in their care for the child. If a birth parent refuses to give up their parental rights despite not providing for their child, then talk with an attorney. If you and your lawyer can prove that the birth parent has failed to offer a positive relationship for the past 12 of 14 months, has failed to pay child support, or has abandoned the child, then the adoption is much more likely to be taken seriously by the courts. Likewise, if a birth parent is incarcerated for a long period, then the courts may also be more likely to consider granting parental rights to a stepparent.
What Is the Process Like for Adopting My Stepchild?
There are several important steps to take when filing for the adoption of your stepchild. First, the court will request a number of legal and personal documents, such as:
- The marriage license for you and your spouse
- Your birth certificate
- Your spouse’s birth certificate
- Your stepchild’s birth certificate
- Any information regarding the child’s other biological parent, such as a divorce decree or death certificate
You will also need an Affidavit of Parentage as assigned by the court, as well as any additional applicable support orders. After a certain age, your stepchild has the right to be part of the adoption process as well. At the age of 14 or older, they will need to sign a Consent to Adoption by Adoptee form.
Once this paperwork has been completed and submitted, you now have the right to file to adopt your stepchild with the courts. During this process, the court will investigate to ensure the adoptee is fit to become the child’s legal guardian, as well as that this decision is in the child’s best interest. Once a report comes back from the investigation, a hearing will be scheduled to determine if the petition for adoption is successful.
The process of adopting your stepchild is not an easy one on an emotional or legal level. With a strong legal team, however, it is certainly possible.
Q: If I Successfully Adopt My Stepchild, What Are My Rights as the Child’s Legal Guardian?
A: If you are able to adopt your stepchild, you will be given any and every responsibility and right of a normal biological parent. This means you will have the right to make decisions on the child’s behalf, look at leaving an inheritance to them, as well as have general custody.
Q: Is It Possible for a Biological Parent to Take Back Custody and Rights to Be the Guardian of Their Child?
A: Typically, a parent who has given up their parental rights to their child has no option to take back guardianship of their child if they have been legally adopted. This is standard across most states. There are certain situations where parenthood can be reinstated if the court or law discovers there was any duress, coercion, or fraud when the parent gave up or was forced to give up their parental rights.
Q: What Are Some Personal Factors That Could Prevent You From Adopting Your Stepchild?
A: When determining if adopting your stepchild is in the child’s best interest, there are several key factors that could prevent the adoption from happening. The court will first look at any criminal history, as well as any financial or lifestyle choices that could endanger the child or their well-being. Other factors might include if you have health issues that could get in the way of your ability to parent or even if you are too old or too young.
Q: Is It Possible for an Adoption to Be Canceled?
A: Once the adoption has been made valid, the adoption cannot be canceled by the adoptive parent or others. In addition, a child is not permitted to renounce their status once adopted.
Learn More About Adoption from Stange Law Firm
Deciding to raise and care for your stepchildren may be part of the job, but it’s an emotional step. We understand the complex feeling that accompanies this process and are here to help. Adopting a stepchild can be challenging, but it can also lead to a rewarding life and a better future for you and your stepchild. If you need help navigating adoption or family law, an Illinois family law attorney from Stange Law Firm is here to assist with the process and give you the expertise you need to navigate your stepchild adoption.