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Celebrities and Stepparent Adoption

A little celebrity gossip for the weekend: Jamie Foxx and Katie Holmes have been in the tabloid news quite a bit lately, and it's not due to their professional acting careers. It's their personal lives that are drawing interest. There's much speculation that the alleged couple could be looking at co-parenting Katie's daughter Suri, and may be seeking a permanent arrangement by having Jamie file to adopt Katie's daughter.

Suri Cruise is the child of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, born in 2006. Katie and Tom divorced in 2012, and custody was awarded to Katie. If reports are true, Tom hasn't seen his daughter in about 3 years, though it sounds like he has been consistent in providing financial support for her.

Jamie's representatives deny the story, and Jamie himself, insists he isn't even dating Katie. So, while the rumors around this purported situation may be nothing more than speculation, this story does lead to questions about parental rights and stepparent adoptions in general.

Stepparent Adoption

This is the most common type of adoption arrangement that exists in the U.S. When a married couple is raising the child of a previous relationship together, they often seek to make the stepparent an adoptive parent. This is most common when the other biological parent is completely absent or agrees to relinquish parental rights over the child. In the case of Suri Cruise, if her biological father is willing to give up his legal rights, the adoption could then proceed, provided Katie and Jamie were married. However, if he does not consent, Suri's mom would then have to petition the court to terminate his parental rights due to neglect or abuse, abandonment, sustained lack of contact, or failure to pay support.

To terminate parental rights in California due to abandonment, the following must be true:

  • The absent parent has not paid child support,
  • He or she hasn't contacted your child for at least one year, and
  • This lack of contact and support was intentional, showing intent to abandon the child.

In these cases, the court is likely to terminate the absent parent's parental rights. Once this phase is completed, the court can then turn to a stepparent's petition for adoption. Note that these actions should be in the best interests of the child, and the judge will consider this.

In Suri's case, because her father has been paying financial support, abandonment does not apply. It's likely that the only way a stepparent adoption could proceed is if Tom gave up his rights voluntarily. Because Suri is only 10, she wouldn't be required to sign her consent. In California this is a requirement for children 12 and older. Most likely, this is a moot point since it doesn't appear that an adoption of young Suri will be happening anytime soon.

If you are a stepparent who wishes to adopt your spouse's child, it is advisable to speak with an experienced family law and adoption lawyer to discuss your situation. Your attorney can help to determine whether adoption is possible and guide you through the necessary process. Before You Leave, Call Steve!

Sources: http://www.inquisitr.com/3635410/katie-holmes-jamie-foxx-marriage-suri-cruise-getting-adopted-by-stepdad/, http://family.findlaw.com/adoption/adoption-court-faqs.html, http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=FAM&division=12.&title=&part=3.&chapter=5.&article=

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