Stepparent Stepping Up to Be Parents
It’s becoming quite common for stepparents to play an active role in their stepchildren’s lives. Â When that role becomes so involved, Â and the absent biological parent plays no active part in their child’s life, it may be a good decision for the new family unit to take the step to create a legal relationship between the stepparent and their spouse’s biological children. Â The formal step would involve adopting their spouse’s children; the adopting stepparent assumes financial and legal responsibility for his/her spouse’s child or children and releases the noncustodial parent of parental responsibilities, including child support.
Biological Parent Must Consent
If both of the child’s legal parents are living, but not married to each other, the child may be adopted by the spouse of either parent only if the other biological parent voluntarily surrenders his/her parental rights. Â To that end, both parents must consent to the adoption. Â Some children do not have a genuine relationship with their biological parent and the stepparent may wish to provide the benefit of security to their spouse’s children. Â At the time of the adoption, the child’s last name may also be changed to provide a new identity for the family unit. Â In most cases, the investigative process is limited but some courts may still require an investigation in stepparent adoptions.
If the parent whose rights the stepparent seeks to terminate refuses to surrender his/her rights, a hearing will be held to determine whether the adoption is in the child’s best interest. Â The courts take very seriously a parent’s right and if the whereabouts of the biological parent are unknown, due diligence must be given to locate the absent biological parent. Â Even if a parent objects, the courts may still terminate parental rights if the biological parent is not participating in the child’s life in a meaningful way.