Many families are blended families these days. In some step families, the child's biological parent is an active part of their lives, sharing custody, parenting time, and all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. However, in other families, the child's biological parent has died or is no longer in the picture due to criminal behavior, drug abuse, or some other problem. In those cases, it may make sense for a stepparent to consider adoption.
Benefits of Stepparent Adoption
There are many legal benefits to stepparent adoption. These include permanence and consistency of parenting and financial benefits. If the child's custodial biological parent dies and the stepparent has not adopted the child, the stepparent has no rights to the child. Even where only distant relatives of the deceased parent exist, their claim to the child is legally stronger than that of a stepparent. When a stepparent dies, a step child has no claim to their social security survivor benefits. Nor do they enjoy the normal inheritance rights granted to biological children.
There are, of course, benefits to adopting step children beyond those found in the law. Adoption creates a level of permanence that provides comfort and security for the child. It shows a strong message that the stepparent is committed to the entire family when they are willing to adopt their stepchild(ren).
Legal Requirements for Stepparent Adoption
Not every stepparent can adopt. There are a number of legal requirements. The first hurdle has to do with the absent biological parent. The following situations can pave the way for a stepparent adoption.
- You will need consent from the absent biological parent. However, the adoption can be completed without the absent parent's consent if that parent has abandoned the child. If the absent parent has not had any substantial contact with the child for over 12 months it is considered abandonment.
- You must be a resident of the State of North Carolina for six months before filing for adoption.
- The parent who is the spouse has legal and physical custody of the child and the child primarily resided with both this parent and the stepparent for six months or more preceding the filing of the petition.
- The parent who is the spouse is deceased or incompetent and had legal custody of the child before dying or being adjudicated incompetent and the child resided primarily with the stepparent during the six months preceding the filing of the petition.
In North Carolina, if the child is more than 14 years of age, the child must also consent to the stepparent adoption.
Stepparents may not be listed on the child abuse registry. There are some other criminal convictions which may preclude stepparent adoption. A Home Study may also be necessary. A Home Study is the state's way of ensuring that the adoptive parent is safe and ready to be an adoptive parent.
Are You and Your Family Wondering if Stepparent Adoption is Right for You?
If you and your family are considering the benefits of stepparent adoption, contact Jerkins Family Law. We can help you determine whether you legally qualify for a stepparent adoption. We can discuss the next steps, including preparing and submitting the requisite paperwork to the court. We will also assist in obtaining the amended birth certificate post-adoption. At Jerkins Family Law, we offer complete family law services. Let us put our experience to work for you.