Stepparent adoptions are often initiated by a little voice asking, “Why is my last name different?”
Stepparent adoptions leave intact the rights of the legal parent caretaker. They seek for this parents’ spouse to adopt the child so the spouse can enjoy all of the rights and responsibilities of a parent. Like other adoptions, the rights of all other biological or legal parents and guardians must be terminated before the adoption can occur. Often the Petition also incorporates a request that the child’s last name be changed.
The Court is empowered to waive many of the typical legal requirements for stepparent adoptions such as the home study and six-month waiting period.
Judges will also explain that upon adoption, the stepparent becomes a legal parent. Therefore, in the event of divorce, both parents have all the rights and responsibilities of a biological parent, including custody and child support obligations, as well as rights to make medical and educational decisions, access to confidential records, and inheritance.
The birth parent may consent to a stepparent adoption by joining the Petition. They do not have to appear in Court, but they do have to sign the Petition and submit a notarized affidavit forfeiting their parental rights. Often these are situations in which the biological parent has not been involved in the child’s life for many years. Other times, the biological parent may feel that the child has been kept away from them despite their best efforts at building a relationship. Contested termination of parental rights hearings can be lengthy, stressful, and expensive to litigate.
If the child is 14 years old or older, the child must consent to the adoption. Your attorney will prepare an affidavit for the child’s signature to submit to the court.