While there are many types of adoptions available in the US, the most common one is what is known as a “step-parent adoption.” A step-parent adoption is where the spouse of a parent with primary custody adopts their non-biological child as their own through a legal process. However, before the adoption can begin in court, the other biological (“noncustodial”) parent needs to not have remaining rights to the child.
For families seeking a step-parent adoption, there may not be a need to go through the court system to remove the rights of a noncustodial parent if said parent is dead or presumed dead. If the biological parent is alive, however, for an adoption to proceed, there needs to be a legal termination of parental rights (TPR).
The right to parent one’s child is protected under the Constitution, so the taking of the right is considered with great weight. The noncustodial parent can certainly consent to the TPR, but otherwise, it is on the primary parent to prove that there is enough reason and evidence to have the court enforce a TPR. A noncustodial parent can object and try to prevent the order. However, there are multiple grounds for pursuing the termination. Certain grounds are especially relevant to a step-parent adoption such as the biological father of a child born out of wedlock has not established paternity, legitimized, or supported the child, the noncustodial parent is incapable and will continue to be foreseeably incapable of caring for the child, the parent willfully abandoned the child for at least six consecutive months before the motion, or the noncustodial parent committed serious bodily injury to the child, another parent, or another sibling of the child.
If one of these grounds is sufficiently met, then the court will then look to the best interest of the child before terminating the parental rights. There must be a verification that the parent and the prospective step-parent have been married for at least 6 months. The interests the court will consider include factors such as the child’s age, the child’s bond with the parent, and the likelihood of the child being adopted. In the instance of step-parent adoption, the step-parent will want to make their intentions to adopt known and include supporting evidence such as the length of time they have been involved with the child, the quality of the relationship, and if the child is over the age of 12, the child’s desire to be adopted.
Once the termination of parental rights has been granted, the step-parent may begin the paperwork to adopt the child.
The process of step-parent adoption can be complicated, but the result is certainly worth it for a happy family. At King Law, we specialize in the court process and work with adoptions every day. You don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Call (888)748-KING (5464) or complete a consultation request form on our website KingLawOffices.com. For more information visit our child custody blog section or family law page.