You have been with your spouse for a long time, helping to raise their child. You love the child as your own and want to adopt them to make it official.
Stepparent adoption occurs when a married person gives their spouse full and equal parental rights and responsibilities over his or her child.
Petition to adopt
The process begins when the stepparent who is adopting files a petition to adopt. This petition includes information about the child, name change information if the name of the child will change, the length of time the stepparent has resided with the child and the reasons for wanting to adopt. The spouse of the stepparent will also sign this petition.
Terminate parental rights
The parent whose parental role corresponds to yours must terminate their parental rights. This can occur by them signing a document consenting to the adoption and acknowledging the termination of their rights. Consent is not necessary if termination occurred through a judgment from the court. Reasons the court may terminate parental rights include child abandonment, child endangerment or incarceration of the parent.
Approval of the court
After the stepparent has filed the petition along with supporting documentation, and the other parent has terminated their rights, the court may approve the adoption without delay. Once the adoption is final all custody or support orders regarding the other parent terminate. The other parent also loses all rights to visitation.
If the adoptive stepparent and spouse should ever get divorced, the adoptive stepparent is a full and equal parent in all divorce proceedings and custody matters. They have rights to shared custody and may be responsible for child support.