When Can You Legally Adopt Your Significant Other's Child?


You've been married or living in a committed relationship with a person who has children. And, you love those children like your own. Your spouse probably has full custody of the kids, and the two of you are starting to talk about having you legally adopt them. What steps do you have to go through?

1. Get consent.

The other birth parent must be deceased, have already forfeited his or her parental rights or give you legal consent to adopt. 

You can also move to terminate parental rights, but that is usually only possible when:

  • The parent has abandoned the child. Each state has different regulations on the length of time a parent must be out of contact to have legally abandoned his or her child, so check with a family law attorney on what the laws are in your area. Often, a failure to pay child support can be considered abandonment.
  • The parent has abused or neglected the child. If there is a legal proceeding against the other parent that resulted in criminal charges, parental rights most likely have been or will be relatively simple to terminate.
  • The parent is unfit to be a parent. This could be because of mental or physical illness, drug or alcohol abuse or jail time.

If a parent has truly been out of contact for some time, it may be difficult to track him or her down to get consent. Often, if you put in a good faith effort to find the parent and are unable to do so, you can claim abandonment.

Some parents are willing to give consent to avoid paying additional child support or to have past due child support forgiven. Your attorney can advise you on how to legally request consent.

2. File a petition to adopt.

The exact paperwork is different from state to state, but it is usually not especially complicated. A family law attorney may be able to help you expedite the paperwork and can prevent delays by ensuring you have properly filled it out and filed it.

There may be some fees required as part of the application process, but these are usually no more than a couple hundred dollars. There may be additional fees for criminal background checks, home checks and other requirements before you can adopt.

Your paperwork usually has to be filed in your county of residence, where both you and the child live. 

3. Have the child agree.

Children over 12 will need to appear before a judge and verbally consent to the adoption. If your stepchild is not comfortable with the adoption process, there's no good way to force it. Younger children may be asked to appear before a judge but often that is not required.

What if you can't adopt?

If the adoption is going to be difficult or impossible -- when, for example, the other parent will not give consent -- you may need to be creative about how you proceed with the child's best interests in mind. There are some steps your family can take, such as giving you power of attorney for your spouse or significant other, that will help you to maintain a relationship if something happens. Talk to a family law attorney to learn about options that are available in your state.


27 August 2015

do you really need an attorney?

There are so many legal situations that you can find yourself involved with, but do those situations really require that you hire an attorney? Some instances you may not need an attorney working with you, but in other situations, an attorney is definitely a necessity. This blog contains tips and advice for working through the different elements of the legal system. You will find information that can help you determine if/when you need to hire an attorney to represent your best interests. Knowing this information can help you avoid the costly mistake of taking on the legal system without someone who knows how the system works.