Adoption is one of the many areas covered by family law. Some couples adopt children from relatives, the foster system, strangers matched with them via adoption agencies, or adoption agencies located overseas to become parents and expand their families. Another common type of adoption is known as a stepparent adoption. A stepparent adoption is the process of adopting one’s spouse’s child and gaining parental rights to him or her.
Reasons to Adopt your Stepchild
You do not have to adopt your stepchild to develop a strong relationship with him or her. Adopting the child grants you certain rights, including:
- The right to seek child support and parenting time in the event you divorce your spouse;
- The right to claim the child as a dependent on your tax return and your health insurance policy;
- The assurance that your child will inherit assets from you in the event you die intestate; and
- The right to make legal decisions on your child’s behalf.
Many parents and children feel that an adoption makes them an “official” family.
Completing a Stepparent Adoption in Florida
Stepparent adoptions are quite different from other types of adoption. With a stepparent adoption, there is no home study and no need to be certified to adopt the child.
In order for a stepparent to adopt a child, the child’s other biological parent must agree to the adoption or have his or her parental rights involuntarily terminated. A child cannot have three legal parents.
If the child’s other legal parent does not consent to the adoption, his or her parental rights may be terminated if the court determines that him or her keeping parental rights is not in the child’s best interest. This could be because the parent abandoned the child or because he or she does not have the capacity to care for the child due to substance addiction or mental illness.
When the other parent’s rights are terminated or he or she consents to the adoption, the adoptive stepparent files a Petition for Stepparent Adoption with the court. Often, this is a fairly straightforward legal process: after the petition is filed, a hearing is scheduled for the family. At the hearing, the judge determines that all proper protocol was followed and if the child is 12 or older, confirms the child’s consent to the adoption. When all the documents are correct and the child consents, the judge finalizes the adoption, granting the stepparent the same legal rights as the child’s biological parent.
Work with an Experienced Winter Park Family Lawyer
When you marry a single parent, you take on a role in his or her child’s life. If you enter a parental role, talk to your spouse about completing a stepparent adoption so you can become his or her child’s legal parent. To learn more about stepparent adoptions and other family law issues, contact our team of Winter Park family lawyers at Sperling Ducker PLC today to set up your initial legal consultation in our office.