McCoy Fatula, APCMcCoy
Fatula
Located in Roseville, CA
916-945-2780

Going from stepparent to parent: Adopting your new spouse's child

In recent years, the number of blended families has increased, and so has the role of stepparents. In many cases, stepparents step up and provide the love, care and guidance that a biological parent can't or won't provide to a child. Unfortunately, your legal status might not allow you to take care of your new spouse's child in ways that "real parents" can.

If you adopt your spouse's child, you gain the following legal benefits of being a biological parent:

  1. Parental status: You receive legal recognition as the parent of the child. This makes it easier for you to take care of routine parental duties such as picking up the child from school, making doctor's appointments and receiving medical information, among other things.
  2. Feelings of permanence: The emotional impact of receiving legal parental status can't be underestimated. Everyone may gain a sense of stability and security regarding your family.
  3. Financial benefits: Once you adopt your spouse's child, he or she becomes eligible for insurance benefits under you. In addition, you can more easily leave an inheritance to your new child.

Of course, these items only scratch the surface of the benefits of adoption.

What is involved in a stepparent adoption?

These benefits could prompt you and your spouse to consider a stepparent adoption. Traditional adoptions often take a considerable amount of time, resources and procedural steps, which might dissuade you from going through the process. Fortunately, a stepparent adoption might not require you to go through the same number of hoops considering the fact that you already live with the child and provide him or her with a loving home. Technically, you must go through the following process:

  1. You must submit to a background check as in a traditional adoption.
  2. You must submit a home study. However, in a stepparent adoption, you could receive a waiver of this requirement. In the alternative, a shortened process could take place.
  3. You must either receive consent from the other biological parent or terminate that parent's rights.
  4. Depending on the age of the child, he or she might need to consent to the adoption as well.
  5. You must appear in court for the approval of the adoption.

Even if the biological, non-custodial parent remains involved in the child's life, that doesn't mean you can't adopt. If he or she fails to provide consent to the adoption, you might need to go to court to terminate the other parent's rights. You will also need to follow this process to terminate the rights of an absentee parent.

This process might seem intimidating, especially if you and your spouse attempt to go through it without representation. If you involve a California family law attorney in the process, he or she could explain your rights and responsibilities and guide you through the process. Embarking on this journey should be exciting and joyful, but it also comes with anxiety and stress for many people. Involving an attorney could reduce the stress and frustration you might feel and allow you and your family to focus on the excitement instead.

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