Many couples think that after a divorce is finalized, all family issues are resolved. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes as people move forward in their new life after divorce, circumstances change. This is most commonly seen when children are involved and one parent remarries. The person they marry now becomes a stepparent. In these cases, stepparents often want just as much say in what happens to the children as a biological parent does. When this is the case, they often look into stepparent adoption.
Stepparent adoptions can be beneficial to a family, particularly the child being adopted. Those going through the process must first understand what their legal rights and responsibilities are, and the hurdles that may make this style of adoption more difficult.
Benefits of Stepparent Adoptions
When adopting a stepchild, there are many obvious benefits. It can enhance the emotional ties between the stepparent and the child, and make the child feel more secure in the stability of their home. It also allows the stepparent to become more involved in the raising and care of the child. There are other benefits, as well.
One benefit is that if the biological parent married to the stepparent passes away, the stepparent still has full legal rights to the child. This allows the stepparent to retain child custody and the relationship they have developed with the child. Without legal adoption papers, anything could happen in court, leaving the future of the child and the stepparent uncertain.
Adopting a stepchild also guarantees that the child is treated as a natural child upon the stepparent’s death. This makes it easier to distribute inheritances and other benefits the stepparent may wish to pass on to the child.
The Legal Impacts of Stepparent Adoptions
While there are many benefits to stepparent adoptions, there are other ramifications which both parents must first consider. Most importantly, it is important to consider what will happen if the natural parent and stepparent divorce.
After a stepparent adoption takes place, both parents have a legal right to the child. As such, the courts will view the stepparent as a natural parent when making decisions on child custody and visitation matters. This also means that the stepparent will still be considered legally responsible for providing for the child when it comes to negotiating child support.
These are just two of the biggest legal impacts of stepparent adoption. Anyone wishing to adopt a stepchild, or who wishes to allow a stepparent to adopt, should consult a Birmingham family lawyer who can help them understand all the legal impacts of stepparent adoption.
Consent of the Other Natural Parent
When a stepchild is adopted by a stepparent, the adoption legally severs the ties between the child and their other natural parent. As such, the stepparent who wishes to adopt and his or her spouse must serve the other natural parent with adoption papers. This is typically done using a Petition for Adoption. In order for the adoption to proceed, the other natural parent must give his or her consent, or the stepparent and their partner must terminate the other parent’s parental rights.
There are a few exceptions to the requirement of consent in Alabama. These include:
- If the natural parent is deceased
- If the natural parent’s rights have already been legally terminated
- If the natural parent has been deemed incompetent and unable to provide consent
- If the natural parent is a father who has, in writing, denied paternity
- If the natural parent has already relinquished parental rights
- If the natural father is unknown to the mother, and his identity is not revealed by the court
When natural parents agree to the adoption, the process is relatively simple. If the natural parent is given notice of the adoption, such as in the form of a Petition to Adopt, and does not reply in a timely manner, the adoption may proceed without his or her consent. In other cases, if the natural parent has failed to meet his or her obligations, such as paying child support, this is deemed as implied consent and the adoption can continue.
Want to Adopt? Call Our Alabama Family Lawyers If there is anything better than being a stepparent to a child, it is legally adopting that child as one of your own. At Massey, Stotser & Nichols, we consider it an honor and privilege to help bring families together. If you want to adopt your stepchild, call our Birmingham family lawyers today at (205) 619-6290. We will take the initial steps to get the process started, and then assist you every step of the way. Call us today or send us a message online to schedule your consultation.