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Legal How-To: Adopting as a Stepdad

Adopting your partner's children is often a big step in your relationship with your new partner, and it can be a big legal step too.

Stepdads can adopt in every state, but the laws for adoption in each state are slightly different.

Here are the basics on how stepfathers can adopt stepchildren, with particular areas to focus on in your home state:

1. Talk With Your Partner.

Every state requires that the stepchild to be adopted has the consent of both biological parents.

Getting your partner's consent likely won't be a problem. But you may still want to take the time to discuss how the child might feel, whether the child will change her name, and how you can get the consent of the other biological parent.

2. Get Other Parent's Consent.

Stepdads will always need the consent of the other biological parent when trying to adopt his partner's stepkid(s), and this can sometimes be a struggle.

If the stepchild's biological mother or father will not consent to the adoption, which would terminate their parental rights, you may need to take steps to get that parent's rights terminated on your own.

3. Terminate Parental Rights.

Although every state has specific grounds for terminating a person's parental rights, most states will consider the following as grounds for termination:

  • Severe or chronic abuse or neglect,
  • Abandonment,
  • Long-term mental illness,
  • Long-term substance abuse or alcoholism, or
  • Failure to pay child support or maintain contact.

Even without these, a prospective stepdad in most states can have a court terminate a biological parent's rights so long as it is in the best interest of the child.

4. Petition the Court.

Even with the other biological parent's consent, a prospective stepfather still needs to petition the court in his state to start the adoption process.

When a stepdad has the consent of the other parent, he simply needs to file an affidavit of consent (like this one from Wisconsin) with his petition to adopt the stepchild.

5. Prepare for Hearing.

An initial hearing will be scheduled for a judge to consider a stepfather's adoption petition(s) and decide what next steps are necessary in the adoption process.

Often times in stepparent adoptions, the court may remove the requirements for home visits and counseling sessions since the child is related to one parent. But the laws may differ depending on your state.

Need More Help?

None of the steps for a stepfather to adopt require an attorney. But a prudent stepparent may still want to consider consulting an experienced adoption lawyer to make sure the adoption of his stepchild isn't left uncertain.

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