There are many instances where a step-parent will wish to legally adopt their step-child because they already have a relationship with that child’s parent and are already fulfilling the responsibilities commonly associated with parenthood. The good news is that step-child adoptions tend to be much easier than other adoptions, but there are still legal issues that must be addressed under the law. The following guidelines can help step-parents make the adoption process as easy as possible.
The Right Attorney and Agency
An expert in family law in Greensboro has suggested that having appropriate legal representation and finding a good adoption agency to facilitate the adoption are very important. A family attorney is a good choice, especially if they specialize in adoptions. Many adoptions are easy, but they can become complex if the remaining biological parent does not approve of the adoption. If nothing else, a good attorney will ensure that all documents are filed so that the adoption is final and inarguable.
The adoption agency is equally important because they will be conducting the proceedings and reporting to the court on the validity of the adoption. They should be licensed to facilitate step-parent adoptions. Some agencies are not licensed for this kind of adoption, so always be sure to ask and communicate that it is step-child adoption up front.
One of the most important parts of an adoption process is the investigation. This works much like a home study that would be conducted during a normal adoption. A professional from the adoption agency will review the home setting, examine the needs of the child and interview everyone involved. They will be looking to ensure that the adoption is appropriate and fits the needs of the child. They will also be examining the step-parent’s ability to be a parent and provide for the child’s well-being into the future. The fact that a step-parent is already involved is a positive thing, but don’t expect it to be a sure bet. The agency will realize that any number of things could cause the prospective parent to become the sole guardian, and they need to ensure that the child’s situation would remain stable in that case. Evidence of a strong and established relationship with the child is one of the most helpful aspects in a step-child adoption.
Expect questions about your personal and professional life, your relationship with your spouse and your relationship with the child. Always be open and honest. Adoption agencies have a habit of digging quite deeply into a person’s background and lifestyle. If you feel that you are a fit parent and you act accordingly, then this will show in the investigation. Always maintain the confidence that you are the right fit for this child. If you are worried about what might come up in the investigation, always direct these questions to your attorney.
An important aspect of adoption is the termination of the biological parent’s rights. A child cannot have three adults with parental rights, so the rights of the remaining biological parent must be terminated before a step-parent can legally adopt. This is sometimes easy. The biological parent may be deceased or already have their rights terminated. They may also surrender their rights willingly. If they do not, then you with your attorney must petition the court to terminate the rights. There must be a reason for this, such as evidence of past abuse or neglect. The fact that the child does not live with the parent, even if they have not done so for a long time, is not always enough to terminate rights. The court is often very conservative on this issue. If the biological parent refuses to surrender rights, and the court does not terminate them, then the only course of action is to wait for the child to turn 18. Biological parental rights are automatically terminated at this point, and the step-parent may perform an adult adoption with the consent of the person to be adopted.
Even smooth adoptions are not fast. It is important to be patient with the system and confident that it will work out in time. Speed the process as much as possible by being timely with all paperwork and available at the agency’s convenience for an investigation and interviews.
Following these guidelines can give you the best step-child adoption process possible. With the right amount of time, effort and preparation, you can go on to have a healthy and established legal family.