You may already have noticed that blended family units (those with step parent adoption) have become a common part of the American landscape. Many children now live with one of their original parents and their new spouse. The new spouse takes on the role of a step-parent and in some cases they might even decide to adopt their spouse’s child. Each state within America creates a set of laws concerning step parent adoption. Most states typically use the same process for step parent adoption but they often vary on different points.
Considering Step Parent Adoption
To illustrate the very likely increase in step parents adopting, it may come of some surprise to hear that according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50% of newly married American couples will be destined to experience divorce. The CDC also shows divorce rates being as high as 5.6% in some states and 3.6% overall, compared to a marriage rate of just 6.2%. Nearly half of all divorcees will eventually remarry another person. Many people who remarry typically have children from their first marriage. Once a divorced person starts a family with their spouse this creates a situation known as a blended family. Surveys and research indicates the possibly 4 out of 10 people within America belong to a blended family. The U.S. Census Bureau claims that the blended family model will become the norm within the next 30 years if present trends continue.
So you see, becoming a step parent is now a commonplace occurrence after the dust has settled, the subject of adoption may be approached. As a step parent, you should be aware of the fact that when you try and decide to adopt a child you are actually trying to become their legal parent. This means that you will be equally responsible for providing care for the child and you will also have all the parental rights. In order for this to happen, your spouse (the custodial parent) and the noncustodial parent must agree to this situation. You just can’t adopt a child based off your spouse’s consent.
You should also keep in mind that a noncustodial parent has the same parental rights of their children as your spouse. As long as they are paying child support, courts will usually recognize a noncustodial individual as the legal parent of a particular child. Each state has its own rules for establishing parentage of a child. As long as a noncustodial parent is following the guidelines and rules of a custody order then you cannot go down to the courts and adopt their children.
Even if a noncustodial parent is not keeping every part of a custody agreement you still will probably have a hard time adopting their children. Most court systems do not think that it is wise for children to be taken away from their natural birth parents unless there is a compelling reason to carry out this action.
The primary way that most step-parents are able to adopt children within their marriage is when a noncustodial parent dies or if a non-custodial parent decides to give up their parental rights. Under these two conditions the step parent adoption process becomes fairly simple.
Some couples within a blended family try to prove that the noncustodial spouse is not a capable parent to take care of their children. However, this is not an easy thing to prove within the court of law. A couple pursuing this action would have to use the help of psychologists, character witnesses and other credible individuals to build a case in order to prove that the noncustodial parent is unfit.
Also, before a step parent goes through the adoption process they must really be honest about taking on the role of a natural parent to a child within a blended family. Most step-parents experience a lot of hostility and problems from step children simply because they’re not their natural birth parent. A lot of children are already conflicted when they’re involved within a blended family. Though they try to make the best out of a situation they usually end up experiencing a lot of conflict and problems because they are no longer a part of their original family unit.
As the outsider, a step parent is often seen as the bad guy and is not usually given the same respect as a natural parent. For this reason, you should really think about how a child would feel if you were to step in and take over the role of their natural birth parent. In some cases this situation would be beneficial and the child would be happy with the results but most of the time this type of situation will create problems. A step parent must be honest with themselves about the problems that adopting a child within their marriage will bring.
Step Parent Adoption Process: Things Of Note
Here is brief outline of the step parent adoption process that you can follow if you want to become (with the consent of all parties involved) the legal parent of a child within your marriage.
The first thing that you should do as a step parent is to have the noncustodial parent go down to the courts and explain that they no longer want to remain the legal parent of a child.
Next, you and your spouse should set up a court date where you and the noncustodial parent can officially transfer the rights of a child over to you.
Once the court declares that the noncustodial parent is no longer the legal parent of a child, they will not be required to pay child support or any other type of monetary assistance for the child.
You, your spouse and the former parent (noncustodial) will need to fill out the appropriate paperwork to make the adoption legal.
Once the paperwork is finalized, you will no longer be considered a ‘step’ parent.
These are the basic steps for step-parent adoption but the process will differ depending on a state’s particular requirements for step parent adoption. Some states have rules in place such as:
Consent rules which may allow a child who is at least 10 years old to make up their own mind about being adopted.
Issues pertaining to abandonment are also considered. Some step parents are able to adopt a child if a noncustodial parent has not been in contact with them for a specified period of time. However, many cases regarding abandonment have been thrown out because of the circumstances which led to abandonment. Once again, most court systems are not in favor of keeping children away from their natural birth parents.
Since each state has its own set of rules for step parent adoption, you should contact a qualified attorney in your area that can help you navigate through this process.
Adopting a child within a marriage isn’t an easy thing to do and it can take some time. The main thing that you should understand is that your relationship with a child will change once you legally adopt them as your own. As the step parent adopting, make sure that they are comfortable with taking your last name and remain patient as a child adjusts to your new role as their legal parent.