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Being a parent is full of joys and challenges. The unique role of a stepparent can present its own unique joys and challenges. A stepparent can fill an important and special role in the life of a child. It is only natural for a stepparent who has developed a bond with a stepchild to want to take the relationship a step further and have legal parental status regarding the stepchild. The stepparent adoption process is an exciting one as it is the start of a new beginning for a family. It can also be challenging as legal hurdles step in the pathway to formalizing a relationship that many involved already hold dear in their hearts.

Potential Challenges in a Stepparent Adoption

As with most things involving the legal system, there are forms that need to be correctly and fully completed and formalities that must be observed. If you are unfamiliar with the legal system or the stepparent adoption process, in particular, it can be overwhelming to take on. In order to help ensure that the process goes smoothly and without unnecessary delays, consulting with an experienced family law attorney is the best option to consider.

In addition to observing all of the requisite formalities of the process, the central hurdle that can arise in stepparent adoptions is obtaining consent from the other parent. It is required that you obtain the consent of the child’s parent (the one who is not married to the stepparent). Obtaining consent from the birth parent can often be challenging, even if the other parent has been less than involved or enthusiastic about parenting because consenting to the stepparent adoption essentially means that the parent is giving up all parental responsibilities and rights to the child. This realization can be difficult to process for the birth parent and an attempt to obtain consent can often be met with resistance.

If the birth parent refuses to consent to the adoption, there are still ways that the stepparent adoption may proceed. If there is a legitimate basis for terminating the birth parent’s parental rights, then you would not need to obtain their consent as they would have no parental rights to the child.

Parental rights can be terminated if there is enough proof to substantiate a claim that the other parent abandoned the child, is unfit or is not the biological father of the child. In order to prove abandonment, you must be able to show that the birth parent has not communicated nor has he or she made attempts to communicate with the child or provide financial support. In order to prove that a parent is unfit, most state courts will hold a fitness hearing in which the court will determine whether the other birth parent is unfit. An unfit parent may be so based on a history of abuse or neglect. An unfit parent may have a mental disturbance or struggle with a drug or alcohol addiction, among other things.

Stepparent Adoption Attorneys

If you are a stepparent looking to adopt a stepchild, congratulations on this wonderful undertaking. The trusted stepparent adoption attorneys at Navarrette & Schwartz are here to help you on this exciting, albeit sometimes stressful, journey. We want to see you succeed in a smooth adoption process and are here to help you get there. Contact us today.