There are many ways to make a family, and one way is to form a blended family when one or both spouses have children from previous relationships. Besides the emotional benefits of one spouse becoming the legal parent of the other spouse’s child, there are also significant legal advantages, including the right to make important decisions for the child such as decisions on education and medical care. For many blended families, an adopted stepchild taking the same name as their married parent has emotional and symbolic meanings as well as legal benefits.
For Chandler stepparents who want to become a child’s true parent in the eyes of the law, understanding the process of stepparent adoption in Arizona is the first step.
In order for a stepparent to adopt a stepchild in Arizona, they must first meet the following qualifications:
Adopting a stepchild is a big decision both legally and emotionally. It provides a sense of permanency for the child and strengthens family bonds for the stepparent.
If the child’s other biological parent is still living, they must first go through the process of terminating their parental before the stepparent can legally adopt the child. In some circumstances, the biological parent voluntarily terminates their parental rights, which then ends any existing child support obligation. In other cases, the court could terminate a parent’s parental rights for specific reasons such as child abuse or abandonment.
The stepparent seeking to adopt a spouse’s child must first have that spouse’s permission. Then, with the help of an attorney, the stepparent files a petition with the court in their jurisdiction. The petition requires basic information, the spouse’s signed adoption consent form, and a hearing notice to be sent to all interested parties
Though a stepparent adoption doesn’t require an in-depth home study necessary in other adoptions, in most cases, a state official will visit the home to ensure that there is no criminal activity or abuse within the home.
The adoption hearing takes place with the child present. If the judge grants the petition, the stepparent then has the same legal rights and obligations as a biological parent, including the right to custody of the child in the event of the spouse’s death as well as the right to make important legal decisions for the child. The adoptive parent also has the responsibility to care for and support the child, including a right to parenting time and/or child custody and the obligation to pay child support if the parents later divorce.
Although this process is less complex than other forms of adoption, it’s still important to hire an attorney with years of experience in the stepparent adoption process in Arizona. Otherwise, paperwork and filing errors could cause delays. A Chandler family law attorney will also help the family through the process, including meeting the preliminary requirements, filing the petition, and representing the family’s best interests at the hearing. Contact our office today for more information regarding stepparent adoption in Chandler, AZ.