Raising stepchildren can be a rewarding experience, however, a stepparent does not have the same legal rights as a birth parent. Under Florida law, stepparents are permitted to adopt their stepchildren, provided that the proper procedures are followed. While stepparent adoptions are generally less complicated than private placement or agency adoptions, it is crucial to have the advice and guidance of an experienced family law lawyer.
Orlando Family Team has extensive experience handling stepparent adoptions for families in Central Florida. If you are considering adopting your spouse’s child, we will help you understand the legal implications and guide you through the stepparent adoption process, from filing the necessary court documents to representing you at the adoption hearing to formalizing the adoption. Our husband and wife team will provide you with the finest representation as we help you establish a legal relationship with your stepchild.
The Stepparent Adoption Process
Stepparent adoptions are common when one biological parent is absent and the custodial parent remarries. The stepparent often plays a large role in the child’s life and seeks to make it “official” by adopting the child. Once the stepparent adopts the child, the child has the same legal rights a biological child would have, such as inheritance rights, and rights to parental support.
To file be eligible to adopt a stepchild in Florida, the prospective parent must be (1) married to legal parent of the child and (2) physically capable of caring for the child. The process starts by filing a petition with the court, which must include information such as:
- The child’s birth date and place of birth of the child
- The name that will be given to the child (if the child’s name is being changed)
- A statement of how long the stepparent has lived with the child
- The stepparent’s reasons for wanting to adopt the child
In addition, it is necessary to obtain the absent’s parent’s consent to the adoption, which means relinquishing all of his or her parental rights, including the power to make decisions for the child, all visitation rights, and the right to communicate with the child. The absent parent will no longer be obligated to pay child support one the child is adopted by the stepparent. If the absent parent consents, the court will likely approve the adoption. From a legal perspective, the adoptive parent will then share full parental rights of the child.
If consent cannot be obtained or the biological parent cannot be located, it is necessary to ask the court to terminate the biological parent’s rights. Because Florida public policy prioritizes parent-child relationships the court will only terminate a biological parents rights under limited circumstances, such as:
- The parent has deserted or abandoned the child
- The parent has a history of child abuse or substance abuse
- The parent was determined by the court to be legally incompetent and is unlikely to regain competency
In any event, the court will only allow the stepparent adoption to proceed if it is in the best interests of the child. Ultimately, stepparent adoption can strengthen the bond between the child and stepparent, which can also benefit the entire family. In addition, a stepparent adoption can protect the stepparent’s legal rights, and provide the child with a greater sense of stability. Stepparent adoptions are also a viable option for same-sex couples since marriage equality was legally recognized in 2015.
Contact Our Orlando Stepparent Adoption Attorney
Adopting a step-child is an exciting experience and one that can make your family stronger. Nonetheless, there are serious legal considerations involved that require the advice and guidance of an experienced stepparent adoption attorney. When you work with Orlando Family Team, you will have confidence, knowing that your family’s interests will be protected.
Husband and wife attorneys Ophelia Bernal-Mora, Esq., B.C.S. and Andrew Nickolaou, Esq. will take the time to explain your rights and responsibilities and help you navigate the adoption process. We can assist in determining whether consent of the absent parent is necessary, follow the proper procedures for obtaining consent, petition the court to terminate the absent parent’s rights, represent you in adoption hearings, and help arrange for new birth certificates.
Above all, we believe that nothing is as important as building strong families and will help you make the best decisions for your family’s future. If you are considering stepparent adoption, please contact our office today to learn how we can help.