March 12, 2013
Can I adopt my Spouse’s Children?
The biggest issue in the adoption of a stepchild is whether or not the biological parent is willing to surrender his or her parental rights. The surrender is an unconditional, permanent termination of the biological parent’s rights.
The law imposes a number of procedural hurdles to ensure that the surrendering parent understands the consequences of what he or she is doing. The surrendering parent has the right to withdraw the surrender if the parent does so in writing within 10 days of executing the surrender.
Under certain circumstances it is possible to have the Court involuntarily terminate the biological parent’s rights. The Court may involuntarily terminate the biological parent’s rights if it finds any of the following:
(1) That the child has been abandoned by the parent;
(2) That the parent cannot be found after a diligent search;
(3) That the parent is insane or otherwise incapacitated from surrendering his or her rights;
(4) That the parent has failed to exercise proper parental care or control due to misconduct or inability as defined by law;
(5) That the parent, for a period of one year or longer immediately prior to the filing of the adoption, has without justifiable cause significantly failed to communicate or to make a bona fide attempt to communicate with the child in a meaningful, supportive, parental manner; or
(6) The biological parent, for a period of one year or longer immediately prior to the filing of the adoption, has without justifiable cause significantly failed to provide for the care and support of the child as required by law or judicial decree.
The Court must still find that an adoption is in the child’s best interest even if a termination of the biological parent’s rights is authorized. The Court will appoint an agent to thoroughly investigate the adopting parent’s background, including a criminal background check and a home evaluation.
Adoption is a huge step for the adopting parent as well as the child. If the adopting parent and his or her spouse ever divorce then the adopting parent has an obligation to continue financially supporting the child. He or she could also seek custody of the child in a divorce action. Furthermore, the adopting parent and adopted child acquire inheritance rights from and through each other the same as if they were blood relatives.
It is very important to hire an adoption attorney with a significant amount of experience handling adoptions, particularly when the adoption is contested by the biological parent. There are numerous deadlines that must be strictly followed. It is impossible to describe in this brief article the many minute details that must be satisfied to properly effectuate an adoption.
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