Blended families are a beautiful representation of love and unity. If you have recently married someone with kids from a previous relationship, you know that you are already like a parent to them. So why not pursue adopting them?
Taking the extra step to adopt your stepchildren is a special way to show your love and commitment. Luckily, stepchild adoption can be an easy and quick adoption process.
Why Adopt Your Stepchild?
Not everyone chooses to adopt his or her spouse’s children, but it’s a special opportunity for some family situations. If your stepchild’s other biological parent passed away or is absent from his or her life, you have the amazing opportunity to step in and build a wonderful relationship with them as the legal parent.
In most cases, the legal adoption just confirms the relationship that already exists between you and your stepchild.
Another great reason to adopt your stepchild is to give the child more security in life. Being married to someone with children does not give you any legal authority over them. Even if you are acting in a parental role to them, you still cannot make major legal decisions on their behalf.
However, when you legally adopt your stepchild, you will assume the same authority as your spouse. This is one of the many reasons why stepparent adoption is appealing for many blended families. If something happened to your spouse, you would become your stepchild’s primary guardian.
How Does Stepchild Adoption Work?
In Florida, a stepparent adoption combines both the termination of the biological parent and the adoption of the stepparent into one petition and one hearing. By law, you cannot have two legal parents so you must first terminate the rights of one of the parents so the stepparent can adopt the child.
Before starting a stepparent adoption, you must first determine if the child’s other parent will allow an adoption to occur. In some instances, the child’s biological parent is no longer in the picture. Often, the biological parent is happy to sign a consent to the adoption for various reasons. For example, the biological parent will no longer have to pay child support if the child is adopted by your spouse. Another reason is that the biological parent was never really involved in the child’s life and understands that your spouse is the actual parent.
If the biological parent chooses to contest the adoption, you can prove abandonment. This will be more challenging especially if the parent has been around and active in the child’s life.
After determining whether the biological parent will agree to the adoption, you will need to file the petition to terminate rights and adoption by a stepparent. This is when you will need to call an attorney like myself to help you navigate this process. Since there is only one hearing, the process is rather quick. However, it might take a while if the other legal parent does not agree with the adoption.
At the final hearing, the judge will terminate the legal parents and grant your spouse to be the new legal parent.
The hearing usually takes place in the judge’s chambers and lasts only a few minutes. The judge will ask a few questions to make sure that everyone involved is happy with the adoption situation, and then they will make it official.
As soon as the judge rules, you are officially granted legal rights as your stepchild’s parent. After the proceedings, your stepchild will receive a new birth certificate that lists you and your spouse as their legal parents.
The whole process is very quick compared to other types of adoptions, and in many cases, it only takes one or two months to complete.
Facing Opposition from Biological Parents
When full consent of the adoption is given from both biological parents, adopting your stepchildren is a smooth and quick process. But just in case you’re in a situation where your spouse’s ex-partner is opposing the adoption, let’s go over your options.
According to the 2020 Florida Statutes, abandonment is when a parent chooses not to contribute to the life and well-being of their child.
The law states that occasional visits from the biological parent are not enough to count as maintaining a positive relationship with the child. If your stepchild’s biological parent contests your adoption but you and your spouse feel that they meet the criteria for abandonment, your adoption attorney can bring this information to the judge.
Now you might be asking, “how long does a parent need to be absent for it to be ruled abandonment?” There is no concrete time frame set in place by the state of Florida. The judge will look at the entire situation and decide whether or not the biological parent has abandoned their parental duties.
If you need to make a case against the biological parent, having an exceptional adoption attorney with experience is crucial.
The most important thing to remember is the child’s safety and wellbeing. Adopting a spouse’s child should not be done merely as a grand gesture. The whole thing can get messy, so you should consider the legal implications and the situation with the other biological parent.
However, if you are approaching the adoption with loving intentions and it is the best thing for the child, the judge will be able to see that.
Your New Blended Family
Marrying someone with children from a previous relationship comes with complications. You aren’t just marrying your spouse, but you’re also committing to their children for the rest of your life.
Making your new blended family situation even more permanent by pursuing stepchild adoption is a beautiful thing to do. In the end, any complications will be worth it to show your love and commitment to your new child, and your family will be able to have a fresh start.
At Florida Adoptions, we want to help you pursue stepchild adoption. We’re a hands-on adoption law practice and will support you during every step of the process.
Ready to get started? Contact us to get started with your stepchild adoption paperwork today.