When a step-parent wishes to adopt his or her step-children, an adoption action may be initiated with the consent of the child’s legal parent (the spouse of the step-parent). The other legal or biological parent of the child will also be required to surrender his or her rights to the child or the Court will be required to terminate that parent’s rights to the child in order to allow for the Step-Parent Adoption. This adoption will also include a potential name change for the children so as to allow the children to have the last name of the adopting parent, should they desire to change their names.

Specifically, there are two different circumstances under which a child may be adopted by his or her stepparent, and the process that the adopting parent must undergo differs according to these circumstances. The first set of circumstances involves the adoption of a child by the spouse of one of the child’s biological parents where the other biological parent is no longer living. If the child’s other biological parent is no longer living, the child may be adopted by the spouse of his or her living parent only if that parent consents in writing to the adoption. O.C.G.A. §19-8-6(a)(2). For example, if the stepfather wishes to adopt his stepchild, and the child’s biological father is no longer living, the stepfather may adopt the child if the mother (the stepfather’s wife) gives consent.

If you want to adopt a stepchild, you must have the consent (or agreement) of both your spouse and the child’s other parent (the noncustodial parent) unless that parent has abandoned the child. By giving his or her consent, the noncustodial parent gives up all rights and responsibilities, including child support. In addition, in nearly all States, an older child must consent to being adopted by his or her stepparent. The age at which the child must consent varies by State, but in general the minimum age at which the child’s consent is needed ranges from 10 to 14. The way to obtain consent is different in each State. In many States, the noncustodial parent can give a written statement. In other States, he or she may have to appear before a judge or file papers with the court. Some States require the parent to receive counseling, have the laws and his or her rights explained to him or her, or talk to a lawyer. Some State adoption laws do not require the other parent’s consent in some situations, such as abandonment. However, it is important to do everything the law requires to obtain proper consent. Some States’ laws allow for consent to be revoked, and for an adoption to be challenged or overturned, if these requirements are not met or fraud has occurred.

Stepparent adoption, like all other forms of adoption in the United States, is governed by State law. Most States make the adoption process easier for stepparents. For example, your family may not need to be represented by a lawyer. You may not be required to have a home study, as parents in other types of adoption are. However, every State is different. For example, many States require a criminal background check even if a home study is not required. Be sure to find out what the laws are in your State.

To learn the requirements that must be met regarding adoption please contact our firm.