A step-parent’s desire to adopt their wife or husband’s child does come up a lot in family law. However, step-parent adoption is not straightforward.
In many ways, proposing a step-parent adoption is like proposing a bid for sole legal and physical custody of the child. That is because in Minnesota the non-custodial parent will be surrendering his or her parental rights completely if he or she allows the adoption to proceed.
Sometimes this won’t be hard. When a step-parent adopts the non-custodial parent terminates all parental rights and responsibilities. This means the non-custodial parent will no longer be responsible for paying child support (though he or she will still be responsible for paying any accumulated arrears).
In this case the non-custodial parent can simply consent to the adoption and it can proceed uncontested with the appropriate paperwork, especially if the child is under the age of 14. If the child is over the age of 14 then you will also need the child’s consent for the adoption. Of course, you probably would have already had extensive discussions with your child before pursuing this course of action and so ideally would already know where your teenager stands on the issue.
If you can’t get the other parent to give you written consent then you may have a hard time proceeding with the adoption unless you can demonstrate that there’s sufficient cause for the court to terminate the other parent’s rights. This is most common when the other parent can be shown to have abandoned their child.
You would generally need to demonstrate that the other parent has not paid child support for a long time and has made no effort to see the child or make contact with the child either. The custodial parent may also need to demonstrate that they weren’t thwarting parenting time orders and that a genuine effort has been made to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.
If there is cause or consent to terminate the non-custodial parent’s parental rights you would then file an adoption petition with the courts. The courts may then conduct a home study.
This means a social service agency will come in to evaluate the child’s home and living conditions, so be prepared. While there are times when this assessment gets boiled down to a simple questionnaire, you should always be prepared to put your best foot forward.
Remember, as with all child custody issues the court’s concern is always the welfare of the child. The court is going to want to be absolutely sure that the adoption is in the child’s best interests.
If you are hoping to adopt your step-child ; contact BGS today. We have decades of family law experience and will do everything in our power to help the potential adoption run as smoothly as possible. Call us today.