Stepparents can play a very important role in their stepchild’s life. As families grow and change, there may come a time when you decide you want to “blend” your family and make things official by adopting your spouse’s child. There are many benefits to adopting a stepchild, such as growing the relationship with your stepchild, giving them a greater sense of stability in the home and within the family structure, and allowing the stepparent to take on more responsibility in raising the child, such as making important legal and medical decisions on their behalf. This also would ensure that your stepchild would remain in your custody and home should tragedy strike and your spouse pass away. This would also better allow you to provide for your stepchild in your estate plan.
In order for the adoption to proceed, with limited exceptions, the stepchild must have resided with the stepparent for at least one year and the stepparent and the biological parent must have been married to the stepparent for at least 3 years. Additionally, if the stepchild is over the age of 14, the state of Alabama requires that they give consent to this adoption.
The Other Parents’ Consent
A child in the state of Alabama is only allowed to have two parents. As such, adopting a child will require that the rights of one of the child’s existing parents be severed. Generally, this involves the stepparent and spouse serving the other biological parent with adoption papers via a petition to adopt. The court requires that the other natural parent provide consent to this adoption and the termination of their parental rights unless:
- the biological parent is deceased,
- their parental rights were previously terminated or relinquished,
- the other parent is unknown to the mother and the court,
- the other parent is deemed incompetent and unable to legally consent,
- or the other parent has denied paternity.
Additionally, if the biological parent fails to reply after a reasonable amount of time has elapsed, the adoption may proceed absent their consent. If they fail to meet their parental obligations such as paying child support, the court will consider that implied consent to the adoption, as they would with neglect or incarceration. Provided there is consent or an exception to the consent requirement is met, the adoption process should be simple from that point forward.
The Legal Impact of Adopting a Step Child
Adoption in the state of Alabama happens when an adult legally obtains all the parental rights and responsibilities to a child under the age of 19. Stepparent adoption gives the stepparent all the rights and responsibilities – legal, financial, medical, and otherwise – to the child as a natural or birth parent would have. These rights and responsibilities will continue until the stepparent’s death, so it’s important to make the decision to adopt with time and care. Even if you and your spouse ultimately divorce, you will still maintain the status as a legal parent to your stepchild. This process would give you, the stepparent, an equal legal footing to the child’s biological parent, so if a divorce were to occur, you would be subject to the same considerations when determining custody and visitation. You may also be responsible for providing child support.
Experienced Cullman County Adoption Attorneys
With over 55 years of combined experience, the Hankey Law Firm proudly serves the people of Cullman County, Blount County, Winston County, Madison County, Morgan County, and even further across the great state of Alabama. We practice almost entirely family law and are well-prepared to deliver quality representation with professionalism, expertise, sensitivity, and a relentless dedication to fighting for you, your rights, and your family. We believe in putting our clients and their families first. Contact us today so we can discuss your case and tailor your representation to your needs and your goals.