How to Adopt a Stepchild
The most common form of adoption is by a stepparent who assumes financial and legal responsibility for his/her spouse's child(ren), and the non-custodial parent is released of all parenting responsibilities.
- Check your state adoption laws regarding stepparent adoption.
- Seek advice from a qualified attorney, paralegal, or research laws yourself. It is very important that you understand what consents may be required from the child's non-custodial parent, and whether or not you will need a homestudy.
- Contact the court in your county that handles adoptions (in some states, this is Juvenile Court, in others it's Family or Surrogacy Court) and ask where to obtain forms and if an attorney is required.
- Obtain all the legal forms. If you have an attorney, he/she will do this for you. If not, ask the court clerk (see #2 above) where the forms can be ordered.
- Submit required legal paperwork yourself, or your attorney will do this for you at the adoption hearing.
- Await notification of a court hearing date. A date will be assigned in consultation with the judge's (or magistrate's) calendar, your attorney and the court calendar. You will be notified by mail or through your attorney.
- Appear at the hearing. Your attorney can advise you about the proceedings. At the end of the hearing, the judge will set a date for finalization of the adoption.
- Attend the finalization hearing. When the adoption is finalized, adoption certificates are issued. You can request additional copies of this legal document for your files.
- Apply for an amended birth certificate. This will show the name of the child's new adoptive parent in the place of the biological parent.
- The process may result in a change of the child's surname. Be sure to get several copies of the finalization document to provide to schools, agencies, and the government (tax forms, Social Security card, etc.) to prove the name change.
- If you do not use an attorney, legal guidance may be available from a paralegal with experience in stepparent adoptions. Check your local resources.
- Remember that stepparent adoption not only severs the legal relationship with one biological parent but also with members of that parent's family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
• Adopting Parents Center
• Legal Resources
• Resources for Stepparents
• Stepparent Adoption
© Nancy S Ashe