Adoptions are my favorite thing to do as an attorney. It’s filled with joy and new beginnings. Recently, I helped a step-father adopt his adult step-daughter whom he had raised since she was a child. The fact that she, as an adult, wanted to legally be his daughter and have his last name shows how great of a father he must have been through all of her formative years. It’s a testament to the cliché that “anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad”. Step-parent adoptions are the embodiment of that cliche.
Step-parent adoptions, when by consent of the biological parent for whom the step-parent is replacing, are fairly easy. This is particularly true when the child has lived with the step-parent for more than one year, eliminating the need for a home study. The process requires some the drafting of documents (petition for adoption and consents), forms to simply be filled out, sent to State agencies to review, and then wait the required period of time before the Probate Judge can sign off on the petition.
If there is no consent, you will have a very messy situation on your hands, because that will require a termination of parental rights which is not an easy thing to do. However, I’ve seen many situations in which a biological parent will consent, whether it’s because he or she doesn’t want anything to do with the child and probably never has established a relationship or he or she doesn’t want the child support obligation any further (though there are a host of legal issues surrounding this one). Sometimes it’s because the custodial parent has caused alienation between the other parent and child such that the relationship is so severely deteriorated that it is basically non-existent. Regardless of the reason, it is bittersweet to handle these. I can’t help but wonder how this affects a child, particularly knowing that a parent would rather give him/her up than to pay child support? However, on the flip-side, the child knows there is someone there wanting and willing to fulfill that parental role, and who has likely been doing it for some time. Someone is there who loves them unconditionally and wants to be their mom or dad.
In my most recent step-parent adoption, the person being adopted was an adult. However, most step-parent adoptions I’ve handled have been of minor children. The process is slightly different, but still fairly easy when there is consent of the other parent.
Do not fear the process. Attorneys who handle adoptions can answer questions you may have about the process and cost. Many people say they’ve thought about doing the adoption for years, but put it off because they were afraid it would cost a lot or didn’t know if an adoption was even possible. If you are considering step-parent adoption, talk with an attorney about your particular situation to find out if an adoption is possible in your case. Get the answers you need. Take that first step. Maybe, sooner than you expected, you will hear – as I said to my most recent client – “Congratulations, it’s a girl!”
(no representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than those performed by other lawyers)