Stepparents and Adopting Stepchildren
Often stepparents want to take the next step and adopt stepchildren when the biological parent is no longer in the picture either by choice or untimely death. The stepparent has been to all the school plays, the sleepless nights of worrying about a sick child and for all intents and purposes the stepparent is the child’s parent and all that is needed is to make it legal. Making it legal can increase the child’s feeling of stability and give all family members peace of mind. Your family is ready, so what’s next? Kevin Hickey Law Partners can help you successfully file all the paperwork necessary to make this joyful moment smooth and easy making the lifelong relationship officially legal solidifying the bond.
Under Arkansas law for all adoptions, if the stepchild is 10 years or older, he or she must consent to the adoption. The child needs to understand that the other birth parent will not be able to continue in a parental relationship with the child. If the child is 14 years or older, the child will need to sign a consent to adoption.
The adoption process for stepparents is a little simpler and less expensive than other types of adoptions. For example, stepparents wishing to adopt in Arkansas do not have to go through the home visit process the same way they would if they were an unrelated adoptive parent. However, you must be a resident of the State of Arkansas for six months prior to filing your adoption. The adoption is filed with the Probate Court in the county where you reside. To begin the process, the stepparent petitions the court to adopt the child. The child’s birth certificate, the death certificate of any deceased parent and a consent form from the stepparent’s spouse, if required, need to be attached to the petition. Arkansas law also requires that an Adoption Information Sheet be sent to DHS. This sheet asks questions about the petitioner, relationship to the child, criminal background checks and so on.
The birth parent, of which you are assuming that role, might or might not have to consent. If he or she has abandoned the child or failed to willfully provide financial support for than a year, then it is possible that his or her consent is not needed. In most cases, the courts will want to make sure the birth parent understands that once he or she consents to the adoption parental rights will be terminated. The biological parent will need to be given notice of the adoption and have the opportunity to either consent or object. The biological parent will need to file a notarized consent form stating they are aware of the ramifications of consenting to the adoption. There is a 10-day waiting period after the filing of consent to allow a consenting parent time to change his or her mind. In cases that the biological parent has died, the biological grandparents will need to be notified, while their consent is not necessary, they do have the right to come to court and object if they so choose.
The final step in the adoption process is the hearing. The natural parent, the stepparent and the child must be present. The parents will be asked a few questions by the judge as well as the child, if he or she is old enough. Any objections to the adoption will also be heard at the hearing. The judge will then determine if the requirements for adoption have been met and will issue a Decree of Adoption.
Once the adoption is completed, you will have the same legal relationship and rights to the child that your spouse has. You will be legally responsible for the child just as you would be if he or she were your biological child. The adopted child will inherit from you just as a biological child would. Finally, the adopted child will be issued a new birth certificate and will have the ability to take your last name. A stepparent that legally adopts a child will have the right to petition for custody and visitation in the unfortunate case that the couples divorce.
Contact Kevin Hickey Law Partners today to discuss your option for adopting stepchildren. Our expertise will help you sort through the entire legal process with ease. We will be happy to assist you in giving you the legal and permanent connection your family desires.