Families come in many forms today, including those in a home where a married couple lives with a child of one of the spouses – in other words, a stepfamily. Especially when the other biological parent is not involved with the child, it is not unusual for the stepparent to consider adopting the child. Stepparent adoption is the way in which a stepparent can become a legal parent to their husband or wife’s biological child.
After all, the child and stepparent may already have a relationship that functions like that of a child and biological parent.
Why stepmother or stepfather adoption?
According to Considering Adoption, some of the benefits of stepparent adoption include:
- The child will get rights to inheritance, public benefits or insurance through the adoptive stepparent.
- The adoption may bring feelings to any or all family members of stability and permanence.
- Logistical challenges will ease up if the adoptive stepparent gains the rights of a parent regarding medical care and records, or educational decision making and records as well as access to teachers and school staff.
How do you start a stepparent adoption in Florida?
State law controls almost all aspects of adoption, including stepparent adoption. In Florida, stepparent adoption begins with the stepparent filing an adoption petition jointly with their spouse, the biological (or previously adoptive) parent. The stepparent is first on the petition as it is their legal status that they are asking the court to change.
The petitioners must also submit certain information to the court, but the determination of what is required in each case may be legally complex. Some examples:
- Child’s birth certificate
- Mother’s consent
- In most cases, the father’s consent
- Child’s legal name after the adoption
- Child’s consent if at least 12 years old, unless the judge excuses it
- Information about any judgment that terminated the parental rights of a parent normally required to consent or if that parent still has parental rights and withholds consent, the reasons that justify terminating them
- Stepparent’s ability to provide for the child
- Stepparent’s reasons for wanting to adopt the stepchild
- Death certificate of anyone who has died but would have otherwise had to consent
While a stepparent adoption has fewer legal and procedural requirements than an adoption of a nonbiological child through an agency, the court has considerable discretion to change the information required to be filed. For example, the court may order a home study in a stepparent adoption for good cause, but otherwise, it is not normally necessary. Or, the judge could excuse the requirement that a party consent to the adoption.
If the petitioner has submitted to the court all required consents and given proper notice to required parties, there can be an immediate court hearing on the petition.
This introduces a topic that has complexity beyond the scope of this blog. Anyone involved in a stepparent adoption should seek the legal advice of a family lawyer experienced in this area.