We had the pleasure of representing with a Williamson County family on a stepparent adoption and wanted to share their story with you. There are many reasons parents want their relationship solidified as a legal relationship, and many children want their last name to match the rest of their family. Sometimes, siblings attend the same school, and the child wants to be recognized as a full member of the family.
It is best for children for both biological parents to remain involved in the child’s life after the parents’ relationship ends. However, when that doesn’t happen, or when one parent has been abusive, if the involved parent marries someone devoted to the child, the best way to protect the child is to complete a stepparent adoption. Some of the ways the child is protected:
- Emotional protection—an abusive or neglectful parent can’t come back after years of no contact and cause psychological harm to the child.
- Physical protection—establishing the legal parent/child relationship means there are no barriers to picking up the child from school or getting the child medical care.
- Financial protection—when the legal parent/child relationship is established, the child becomes a beneficiary of both parents for purposes of inheritance and other financial benefits.
If the biological parent has been uninvolved for many years, it is best if they will agree to terminate their parental rights. Sometimes they recognize that this is best for the child. Other times, they are motivated by the termination of their child support obligation once their rights are terminated. If the uninvolved biological parent will not agree or they can’t be found, we can ask the court to involuntarily terminate their parental rights.
With an involuntary termination case, service of process is the first step. The uninvolved biological parent should be personally served. If they cannot be personally served, we can request permission from the court to serve them by publication in the last known location he or she resided.
Once the un-involved parent is served, we allow 30 days to pass and then file a Motion for Default Judgment. Then we schedule the hearing to terminate parental rights. 30 days later, we can finalize the adoption.
The parents went home with several certified copies of the Final Decree of Adoption, which establishes the legal parent/child relationship. Of course, the mother’s rights remain in full force as well. And they got some beautiful pictures to hold onto forever! Their daughter left with a Certificate of Adoption stating the little girl’s full, official, forever name that matches the rest of her family.
Jenny Hall, the managing attorney at the Adoption Law Center, PLLC, left with a certified copy of the Final Decree of Adoption and the completed birth certificate application with certification by the clerk of court. We hand-deliver the birth certificate application to Vital Records if the child was born in Tennessee, which tends to save several months in our families receiving the new birth certificate with the child’s new name, and listing her new legal father.
If you are considering stepparent adoption, we are more than happy to discuss the process and answer your questions. You can reach us at 615-543-8640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.