Step-parent adoptions account for the majority of adoptions in the United States. Requirements must be met; however, they are typically not as invasive as in other adoptions. The best interest of the child controls the procedure along with those of the adults involved. Every state has specific adoption laws, including step-parent adoption; however, there are general laws and rights that pertain to all parties involved.
Home studies are usually bypassed for step-parent adoptions because the history of the child and step-parent already exists. Involvement and financial support made by the noncustodial biological parent are taken into consideration, particularly if the noncustodial parent does not consent to the adoption. Most states terminate the parental rights of the biological parent who has not lived up to his or her obligations to the child.
Upon completion of the adoption, the step-parent becomes the legal parent with all legal rights that he or she would have if the child were a biological child. The adopted parent is responsible for the child’s legal, physical, emotional, mental and financial well-being. In the event of a divorce between the adoptive step-parent and biological parent, the step-parent may petition the court for custody or visitation like any other natural parent. In the case of divorce between the adoptive parent and biological parent , child support goes to the parent named the noncustodial.
The step-parent is no longer referred to as the “step-parent” but as “mother” or “father.” Besides being legally recognized by the school, court and everyone else, a new birth certificate is issued with the adoptive parent’s name. For men adopting their step-children, their last name can legally be changed to his if the parents desire it. Legally adopting a step-child terminates the rights of the noncustodial parent and his or her family.
The child’s rights are considered before those of either biological parents or the step-parents. The child must attend court, and depending on age, must state whether or not he or she wants to be adopted by the step-parent.
Some states require the step-parent to be married to the remaining biological parent for at least six months or one year before adoption can be considered.
The adoptive parent and the biological parent must decide about any contact with the noncustodial biological parent and/or his or her family after the adoption. Their previous relationship with the child and the impact either decision has on the child should be considered. With the adoption, the family of the parent who had his or her parental rights terminated loses legal or visitation rights to the child as well.
Adoption is usually the best way to make a child feel normal and like part of a family unit, but this depends on the age of the child and the relationship he or she has built with the adoptive parent.