What Happens to the Legal Relationship with Your Adopted Stepchild if You Get a Divorce?

Posted by Jonathan Jerkins | May 25, 2022 | 0 Comments

Getting a divorce with children involved is always complicated, but if you have adopted your spouse's biological children, you may have added concerns regarding your legal relationship with your adopted stepchildren.

Legal Relationship Survives Divorce

Your legal relationship with your adopted stepchildren isn't affected by a divorce from their biological parent. Adopting a stepchild is the same as adopting any other child in that you acquire all of the rights and responsibilities of a biological parent.

In fact, by taking the initiative to go through the process of adopting your stepchild, you will have secured custody and visitation rights. Without adoption — no matter how emotionally close you and your stepchildren are — you could be facing an uphill battle to win custody and visitation rights in the event of divorce from their biological parent.

Moreover, without legally adopting your stepchild, you have no legal right to participate in decisions that affect their education, religion, medical care, and other important issues. Conversely, if you have adopted your stepchild, all of these legal rights continue through a divorce, and you come out on the other side with the same legal rights to your stepchild as you had when you were married to their biological parent.

Stepchild Adoption

Knowing the above information may help you decide whether to adopt your stepchild, which is a process you can begin once you are married for six months to the child's biological parent, who has physical and legal custody of the child.

Additional requirements include:

  • The child must have lived primarily with you and your spouse for at least the last six months; and
  • If the child is over age 12, they must consent to the adoption

If the other parent does not consent to the adoption, the only option is to petition to have their parental rights terminated, which you must show to be in the child's best interest. Note that courts are extremely reluctant to terminate parental rights; usually, there must be allegations of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

An Experienced North Carolina Family Law Attorney Can Help

If you have questions surrounding stepchild adoption or your rights as an adoptive parent of your stepchild upon divorce, the Jerkins Law Firm can help. Call us today at (919) 719-2785 or contact us online.

About the Author

Jonathan Jerkins

Jonathan "Jay" Jerkins, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, intentionally focuses his practice on all aspects of North Carolina family law litigation and negotiations. Jay was admitted to the practice of law in North Carolina in 2014.


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