STEPPARENT ADOPTION ATTORNEY
A stepparent can play a key role in a child's life. Often, the child views his or her parent and stepparent as the core family unit, drawing security and stability from that family relationship. Strengthening that bond through stepparent adoption can benefit the natural parent, the stepparent, the child, and even half-siblings or step-siblings.
Transforming the loving, day-to-day stepparent-child relationship into a legal parent-child relationship through adoption can:
- Provide the child with a greater sense of stability and belonging, because the stepparent has opted to take that step to legally and publicly claim the child
- Allow the stepparent to participate more fully in raising the child, in that he or she will gain access to information and decision-making power in the medical, educational, and other arenas
- Ensure that the stepparent has a legal right to retain custody of the child and preserve the relationship in the event of the natural parent's death or incapacity
- Ensure that the stepchild is treated like a natural child for purposes such as inheritance
UNDERSTANDING THE LEGAL IMPACT OF STEPPARENT ADOPTION
While this change can be very beneficial to the child and to the whole family, it is important that both the natural parent and the stepparent fully understand the ramifications of stepparent adoption. One of the most significant issues that some couples overlook is what happens if the parent and stepparent separate or divorce.
Stepparent adoption creates a relationship that is legally virtually identical to the natural parent-child relationship. That means that if the natural parent and adoptive stepparent divorce:
- The adoptive stepparent is treated like a natural parent for purposes of custody and visitation determinations, meaning that he or she has a right to a continued relationship with the child and could potentially even be granted custody
- The adoptive stepparent's parental responsibilities continue, including an obligation to financially support the child to adulthood
Consulting with an experienced Alabama adoption attorney is generally the best first step toward a stepparent adoption. The attorney can ensure that you and your spouse are aware of all of the legal effects of the adoption, and guide you through the technical legal requirements associated with stepparent adoption.
CONSENT OF THE NATURAL PARENT
When a child is adopted by a stepparent in Alabama, that adoption severs the legal relationship between the child and one of his or her natural parents. Thus, the child's other natural parent must be served with the Petition for Adoption. For the adoption to proceed, you must either obtain consent from the natural parent or successfully terminate his or her parental rights before the adoption can take place.
There are exceptions to this requirement:
- When the natural parent is deceased
- When the natural parent's parental rights have been legally terminated
- When the natural parent has been adjudged incompetent and the court finds him or her unable to give informed consent
- When the parent whose rights will be terminated is a natural father who has denied paternity in writing
- When the natural parent has relinquished his or her rights to the Department of Human Resources or a licensed adoption agency
- When the natural father is unknown to the mother, unless his identity is otherwise revealed to the court
If the natural parent whose rights will be terminated agrees to the adoption, the consent process is relatively simple. If the parent is served with notice of the adoption and fails to respond in a timely manner, the adoption can proceed without his or her consent. If the other parent objects to the adoption, it is sometimes possible to proceed with the adoption against his or her wishes. Certain failures of the parent's obligations to the child are deemed implied consent or relinquishment of parental rights.
An experienced Alabama adoption lawyer can assess your circumstances and explain in detail the conditions which would allow you to proceed with a stepparent adoption without the consent of the child's other parent.
STEPPARENT ADOPTION CASES ARE STREAMLINED
Although adoption is a legal process and requires strict adherence to law and procedure, stepparent adoptions often proceed more quickly and are less complicated than other types of adoption cases. For example, if the child has lived with the stepparent for a year or more, there is typically no pre-placement or post-placement investigation. The court will usually also dispense with the usual cost-accounting requirement.
WORK WITH AN EXPERIENCED ADVOCATE ON YOUR STEPPARENT ADOPTION
When you're strengthening the bonds of your family through a stepparent adoption, the last thing you want is to have the process disrupted by confusion over procedural requirements or unexpected obstacles. Working with an attorney who has extensive experience with the stepparent adoption process will help ensure that you know exactly what to expect, and that you have a knowledgeable guide through the sometimes-complex procedures.
You can take the first step right now by calling 256-519-9970 to schedule a consultation with attorney Sara Doty.