Our firm has been processing stepparent adoptions for over 30 years. A stepparent adoption involves the termination of a biological parent’s rights (either by consent or court order) and the recognition of the step-parent as a legal parent of the child.
What Is Involved in a Stepparent Adoption?
The step-parent initially files an Adoption Request with the Court, along with the termination documents, either a petition to involuntarily terminate the biological parent’s rights or the consent that has been signed by the biological parent. Once filed, the documents are sent to the Health and Human Services Agency social worker who will commence her investigation. The Social Worker will have a meeting at her office with the step-parent, biological parent (who is retaining parental rights) and the child. After the meeting, the social worker will prepare a report for the Court recommending approval of the step-parent adoption. The process concludes with a hearing at the Court where the Judge approves the step-parent adoption and signs a Court Order to that effect. The step-parent, biological parent retaining parental rights and the child appear at the final hearing. This process normally takes 4-6 months to complete, although if the biological father is refusing to cooperate, the process could take longer.
What if the Biological Parent Can’t Be Located or Refuses to Sign a Consent to the Step-parent Adoption?
While some biological parents are available and willing to sign a consent to the step-parent adoption, there are cases where either the biological parent cannot be located or has refused to sign a consent. Our office has handled numerous step-parent adoptions where this is initially the case. There have been instances where we have been able to locate the biological parent and obtain his/her consent after discussing the situation and working out suitable arrangements that allow the adoption to proceed. In other instances where the biological parent cannot be located after a search has been completed, we can file a termination petition with the Court and possibly publish notice in a newspaper for the missing parent, if required. Finally, where a biological parent is available but remains unwilling to sign a consent to the step-parent adoption, there are laws that allow the Court to involuntarily terminate a biological parent’s rights based upon abandonment and the best interest of the child. We will always fully discuss the circumstances regarding the biological parent’s actions or inactions to determine the best course of action. We will of course discuss the fees involved in terminating a biological parent’s rights involuntarily. Our office has extensive experience when it comes to matters regarding the termination of a biological parent’s rights in a step-parent adoption.
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