The love that can exist between a stepparent and a stepchild speaks to the ways in which families can evolve and manifest in surprising ways. For some blended families, adoption becomes a way to formalize that relationship in a meaningful way.
Adopting a stepchild can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both the stepparent and the child. Not only does it legally recognize the bond that has been formed between them, but it can create lifelong security for the child.
However, the process of legally adopting a stepchild can be complicated, especially if the child’s biological parent contests the adoption. It is important you understand what steps are involved in order to determine if adoption is right for you and your family.
Legal Requirements for Stepparent Adoption
If you are considering adopting your stepchild, there are a few legal requirements that must be satisfied in order for the court to consider your petition to adopt. These requirements include:
- You must have been married to the child’s other parent for at least one year.
- You must have resided in Rhode Island for at least 6 months.
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must not be related to the child by blood.
- You must be willing to adopt the child as your own.
In addition to these requirements, the child’s other, typically non-custodial parent must have voluntarily consented to the adoption and surrendered their parental rights, have had their parental rights terminated by the court, or be deceased. The court will also require both you and your spouse to attend an adoption hearing.
Benefits of Stepparent Adoption
Especially if your stepchild has an absent or unfit biological parent, you may want to provide the stability and formality of a legally recognized parent-child relationship for your stepchild. Stepparent adoption is much more than a symbolic gesture; it imbues the stepparent with the same legal authority and rights that a biological parent would have. With the legal rights of a parent, a stepparent who adopted their stepchild could also provide security to a child in case something happened to their spouse and the child’s custodial biological parent.
Adoption would also remove any barriers to a stepparent providing employer-benefit health insurance for the child and would allow the stepparent to make decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, and other important matters. It also ensures that your child has equal legal status to your biological children in case of death.
Potential Downsides to Stepparent Adoption
While stepparent adoption can be a wonderful way for stepfamilies to create lifelong security and stability for their children, it’s important to consider every side of the issue before taking the leap. For instance, if the child's biological parent contests the adoption, it could result in costly legal fees and a long court battle. It’s important to consider how a lengthy contested court battle might impact the child and your family.
It's also important to keep in mind that adoption creates a permanent parental relationship with your stepchild. If you and your spouse divorce, you will still be the legal parent of the child and will have both the rights and obligations of a legal parent, including custody, visitation, and possibly child support.
If you are considering adopting your stepchild, it's essential to consult an experienced adoption attorney who can provide guidance on the stepparent adoption process. With the right preparation and legal advice, the adoption process can be a rewarding experience for both the stepparent and stepchild. By taking this step, you will be providing one of the most meaningful gifts a parent can give to their child.
If you are considering adopting your stepchild in Rhode Island, our experienced family law attorneys at McIntyre Tate LLP can help ensure that the process goes smoothly.
Contact us online or call us at (401) 351-7700 to learn more about how we can assist with stepparent adoptions and create a secure future for your family.