Adding To A Blended Family Through Stepchild Adoption
When you remarry after a divorce, often you become part of a larger blended family. You and your new spouse may both have children from previous marriages and are now stepparents. Although adoption may seem straightforward for couples who do not have children, is it possible for a stepparent to adopt their stepchild?
Adopting a Stepchild in Florida
If a stepparent is considering adoption of a stepchild, they must be at least 18 years old, and their spouse ( the child’s parent) must sign the petition as well. The petition should contain language explaining why the adoption is crucial to the stepparent and the stepchild, and contain evidence of their existing relationship. If the stepchild has two legal parents ( a mom or dad from the previous marriage with your spouse), their other biological parent is given a period to object to your petition. It is not uncommon for the other parent to object, even if they are not involved in their child’s life. This is because in order for the adoption to go through, the other legal parent must relinquish their parental rights. A child can have multiple step parents but only two legal parents or guardians, and once a parent relinquishes legal custody, they are no longer responsible for the child, including making child support payments. This is something you will want to discuss you’re your spouse, your stepchild and the other parent.
Also, teens and children over 12 must consent to their adoption. At this age, children can form their own opinion about whom they want to parent them, and the courts recognize this. As long as there are no objections, an adoption is finalized and the court will issue a Final Judgment of Stepparent Adoption. Once granted, the child can request a new birth certificate reflecting their new parentage. It is important to obtain the birth certificate so the stepparent (now legal parent) can claim the child as a dependent, be listed as an emergency contact and file taxes as married filing jointly.
What if the Other Parent Objects?
As mentioned, it is not unusual for the child’s other parent to object to your motion for adoption. But what do you do in situations where the biological parent has not played a concrete role in the child’s life? What if the other parent has not seen the child in years, and is only objecting as a matter of pride? There are also situations where the other parent may be incarcerated for a lengthy sentence or a recovering addict, in which case a family court would likely not grant them shared custody even if they filed a petition. It is difficult to deny a parent the right to see their child or remove parental rights without their consent. However, if you can establish that it would be in the child’s best interest for your petition to be granted, and that the child’s biological unparent is unfit (due to drug use, history of violence, child abuse, or incarceration), it is likely the court will approve your petition for adoption. This is a lengthy and challenging process, so it is important to consult an experienced family law attorney if you are seriously considering adoption.
Contact the Adoption and Family Law Attorneys at Bubley & Bubley, P.A.
Stepparents who marry into a new family gain more than just a new spouse. They often form a loving and cherished bond with their stepchildren as well. Adoption is one expression of your commitment and parental love for your stepchild. Stepchild adoption also grants you legal rights and protections and allows you to provide the stepchild with legal and financial support, health insurance and other assistance, even if your marriage should end. While lengthy, the adoption process is worth it if it matters to you and your new family. Our Tampa family attorneys at Bubley & Bubley can assist you through every step of the process. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.