In many ways, stepparents take on a parental role once they begin cohabitating with a romantic partner who already has a child. They almost inevitably spend significant time with the child by virtue of their romantic relationship and may develop a bond with them. Most cohabitating stepparents also contribute to their stepchild’s financial maintenance as well.
However, even after years of living together as a family, stepparents and stepchildren do not technically benefit from any legal protection related to their relationships. If the parent of the child were to die or the stepparent and parent choose to divorce, there would be no legal protection for the stepparent’s relationship with the stepchild.
Adoption is the legal process that allows someone other than a child’s biological parent to become that child’s lawfully-recognized parent. Stepparent adoption is one way of protecting the bond between stepparent and stepchild. What does the process of legally adopting a stepchild usually involve?
A discussion between spouses
Stepparents may assume that their spouse will respond with enthusiasm to the proposal that a stepparent will take on a legal parental role. Often, parents are excited to learn that their spouse wants to formally commit to the relationship with the child. Still, there are some scenarios in which stepparent adoption may not be the best option for the family. Therefore, the stepparent considering adoption should explore the idea with their spouse before taking any additional steps.
Conversations with the other parent and then the child
One’s spouse is not the only party with an interest in stepparent adoption proceedings. The other biological parent of the child we’ll also typically have an interest in such proceedings. Their approval and cooperation will typically be necessary. A parent usually needs to rescind their rights in order for a stepparent adoption to take place. If the other parent agrees, it may then be time to discuss the matter with the child in question. Their consent and approval are important as well, the decision will impact the whole family for years to come.
Formal court proceedings
Stepparent adoptions in Indiana require court review and approval. A stepparent will have to convince a judge that the adoption would be in the best interests of the child.
Provided that a family follows the right steps, stepparent adoption can be a very worthwhile endeavor. It can give a child a better sense of family and reduce the likelihood of unexpected future occurrences disrupting the family unit. Learning more about what occurs during the stepparent adoption process may help people better evaluate whether adoption is the right step to take given the nature of their unique circumstances.