Stepparent Adoption: What you need to know

Stepparent adoption can provide a child with the stable loving home that they need. An attorney can help you through the necessary steps to solidify your family.

Being a loving supportive parent is one of the most important roles we can have in life. In many families, a stepparent has this role. At Wilson-Goodman Law Group, PLLC, we know how important it is for a child to have a stable home and how beneficial it can be for both parents to be the legally recognized parent of their child(ren). This is why stepparent adoption can be so crucial to a family and in the best interest of the child. When a stepparent adopts his or her stepson or stepdaughter it is not just filing out some paperwork, it is giving the child all the legal rights of a biological child. This includes giving the stepparent the right to make decisions regarding the child's education, medical care, religious upbringing and the right for both parent and child to inherit from each other.

Stepparent adoption is generally much less complicated than other types of adoption. However, there are steps that need to be taken and important information stepparents should know when pursuing adoption.

Common questions when adopting your stepchild

Who can adopt a child in Arizona?

Adoption is covered by Title 8 of the Arizona Revised Statues. According to AZ law, an adult resident can adopt a child. That adult can be married, single or legally separated. However, both partners in a same-sex couple cannot currently adopt the same child. If a stepparent is the adopting parent a background check must be performed, however a preadoption certification investigation is not required.

Who must consent to the adoption?

Depending on the situation, the child's biological mother and father must consent to the adoption, or the legal guardian or agency responsible for the child. A guardian or agency may be responsible for the child if there no biological parents are living or the biological parents are not legally responsible for the child. The child must also consent to the adoption if 12 years old or older.

What if the biological father is unknown?

If the child's biological father is unknown, the child's biological mother must sign an affidavit, which includes any potential fathers, and notice must be served on those persons identified in the affidavit. After notice is served, the potential father has 30 days to pursue a paternity action. After that time the potential father's rights are considered waived and termination of those rights is not required, nor does the potential father have the right to be notified of any future adoption hearings or proceedings.

How are parental rights terminated?

In most cases the biological father is known, consents with the stepparent adoption and signs the paperwork terminating his parental rights. In other situations the court may terminate the father's parental rights. Some of these situations may include abandonment, child abuse, mental illness deemed to make the parent unfit, felony conviction deemed to make the parent unfit or when the identity of the parent is unknown.

If there are any circumstances present where the identity of the biological father is in question or the biological father is against the stepparent adoption a family law attorney experienced in these types of adoptions should be consulted to provide additional information and assist you with the process.

Stepparent adoption can be legally and emotionally beneficial to the whole family. Legally formalizing the life-long relationship between a parent and child can give a child the stability he or she needs. To learn more about stepparent adoption or to start the adoption process, please contact a family law attorney at Wilson-Goodman Law Group, PLLC today.

Keywords: stepparent adoption, family law