The Legal Process of Adopting a Stepchild

Are you considering adopting your stepchild, but you aren’t sure of the next steps? Are you well aware of all the legal ramifications of becoming the legal guardian of that child?

Does the non-custodial parent understand their role in this process? If you are in the process of considering adopting your stepchild, there are a few things you must keep in mind and steps you must take to ensure the success of your application. Continue reading below to learn more about the process of stepchild adoption and who you can contact for more help.

Discuss Child Adoption as a Family

Adopting your stepchild is an exciting time full of several different emotions. Stepchild adoption is a monumental change as it will legally remove the child’s biological parent from their life, transform their stepparent into their legal dad or mom, and give the child a new name. This type of change is psychologically impactful for the child, so make sure you speak about the decision thoroughly before making your final decision. 

The biological parent must agree to give their legal rights over to the newly named legal guardian. It would be helpful if all parties attended family counseling to understand what comes with legal adoption fully. This will also help ensure that the child is also on board with what is going on. 

Understand the Legal Ramifications of Adopting Your Stepchild

As mentioned above, going through this process will legally remove one biological parent’s right to the child. Other legal ramifications come with adopting your stepchild. Consult with a family law practice attorney to help ensure everyone understands these legal responsibilities. 

Biological Parent’s Rights 

The biological parent must know and understand that once this process completes, they will no longer be considered the child’s legal guardian. Instead, that whole responsibility falls on the new spouse. If you divorce, the new spouse has the right to custody and visitation. If you decide to remarry and want the new spouse to adopt the child, you must seek consent from the adoptive parent, not the child’s biological parent. 

Legal Responsibilities

The new adopting parent takes on the responsibilities and legal rights associated with being this child’s parent. This also includes child support. If you and your partner divorce, the adoptive parent pays for child support, and they have the right to a share of the estate. 

Previous Inheritance

Any inheritance from a previous family goes away once the adoption goes through. The absent other relatives and grandparents of the adopted child can still make voluntary gifts, but they are not obligated to do so. Anything they set aside for the child before giving up their rights to the child is null and void. 

Assemble Your Documents

Once all parties are well informed of the ramifications that come with adopting this child, it’s time to prepare for the adoption process! At a minimum, you will need a copy of the child’s birth certificate and your marriage certification. If the absent parent is no longer alive, make sure you get a certified copy of their death certificate. 

If the non-custodial parent is alive, you will need to get their up-to-date address to serve the petition. If you don’t have the address, make sure you do your due diligence and try to look up their information.

This includes online searching, contacting their family, and looking through available directories. If you hire an attorney, they can do that groundwork for you. 

Consider Hiring an Attorney

Although you don’t have to hire an attorney to go through the adoption process, it would be best if you at least reached out to one for more information. If the non-custodial parents have no issues signing over their rights or are no longer alive, the adoption procedure is relatively straightforward.

If there is pushback from the other parent or a complicated situation, you should consult counsel. They can review your case for free before taking you on as their client. 

Research Adoption Fees

Each state schedules its own adoption fees that you must pay to the court to adopt your child. For example, in California, the adoption fee is only $20, whereas, in Texas, it’s $300. Payment is due at the time your file the petition. 

Other applicable fees:

  • Criminal history checks
  • Attorney’s fees for the child’s attorney
  • Court-mandated counseling
  • Fees for the new birth certificate

In general, it costs around $1600 to $2700 to adopt a child, depending on your state. If you have trouble paying for some of these filing fees, you can reach out to the court for assistance. The court will review your income and assets to determine whether you qualify to waive fees. 

Complete Your Petition

If you plan to adopt more than one child, you can adopt them all simultaneously with the same petition. Make sure that you complete the petition as best as you can. If you miss any details or use the wrong form, you could delay the adoption process. 

Unless you have legal training in writing a petition, you may want to seek the help of a family law attorney. They have experience writing those petitions, and they will make sure you submit the right documents. 

Start the Adoption Process

Nothing is more exciting than adopting a stepchild that you love and have made an impact on. Although those emotions are high, wild, and exciting, you will want to familiarize yourself with the legal ramifications that come with taking legal ownership over a child.

As long as all parties understand their role in the adoption process, it will go smoothly. Even if there is strife and conflict when adopting your stepchild, there is no need to worry; you can rely on the help of an attorney to get you through it. Contact us to find a family lawyer near you.